Sat Oct 22 10:55:24 SAST 2016

Putting metro police on the crime beat can help to reduce their weight

By Ido Lekota | Apr 22, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LIKE many Johannesburg residents, I always laud the service usually provided by Johannesburg metro police officers at weekends.

LIKE many Johannesburg residents, I always laud the service usually provided by Johannesburg metro police officers at weekends.

They can often be seen commandeering the massive traffic of mourners travelling to various graveyards around the city.

So, besides hiding themselves behind bushes waiting to pounce on those who feel like putting their German-designed saloons to the test on the freeways, the officers do provide some community service.

For those who attend funerals almost every Saturday it is actually part of the police officers' showing that they are not alienated from their community. This is indeed a very important service.

But given their training, the kind of resources they have access to (one only has to look at the vehicles they travel the city in) and the apparently high salaries they get compared with their counterparts in the SAPS (rumour has it that the eThekwini metro police chief earns more than the provincial police commissioner), these city slickers should be doing more crime fighting.

They should become more of bobbies on the beat, chasing criminals and ensuring that the city of Johannesburg becomes less crime-ridden.

A colleague avers that having metro police officers on the beat will go a long way to dealing with the weight affliction from which some of them suffer.

Fortunately, according to Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele, plans are afoot to integrate all the metro police forces into the SAPS.

I seem to remember Gauteng pPremier Nomvula Mokonyane also endorsing such a move.

"They should stop hiding behind the bushes and illegally entrapping people," she told me during an interview this year.

This is indeed a commendable move because it means the government is committed to the effective utilisation of its resources in the fight against crime.

On the issue of weight it must be said that this is a matter of serious concern.

Already the township talk is that a trim metro police officer means he or she is a rookie who has not yet mastered the art of soliciting bribes from already tax-burdened motorists.

Once he or she learns the ropes, the saying goes, the money comes rolling in and with it comes the indulgence.

It is unfortunate that this creates the impression that all overweight metro police officers are corrupt and thrive on bribes.

This is obviously not true because whereas there are bad police officers, there are many good ones who are doing an excellent job serving the community.

But what the saying also means is that seeing an overweight officer does not induce confidence in the police force. The first question asked is how will such an overweight police officer catch the usually nimble-footed criminals.

Anyone who grew up in the township will attest to many scenes where criminals have escaped from the jaws of the law by simply outrunning an overweight constable.

In this regard the SAPS must be commended for introducing an exercise programme for police.

According to Cele they are negotiating with health club companies like Virgin Active to secure special packages for police officers.

He says the police are also considering introducing a wellness programme as part of the police training curriculum.

Cele is also taking more drastic measures to address the situation. These include using measures such as Body Mass Index to determine the appropriate weight for police officers.

This will entail comparing the weight of training police officers with their height - to determine the acceptable healthy weight for a trainee of a particular height.

Once the healthy body weight is determined, it then becomes incumbent on the officer in question to achieve and retain it.

Cele also warned that gone would be the days when the force provides uniforms to match the size of overweight officers.

"They will be given particular sizes and it will be their duty to ensure that they eventually fit in those uniforms."

It is also a well-known fact that obesity is a health risk.

So, not only do overweight police officers undermine the government's fight against crime, but they are also putting their health at risk.

And as the saying goes: "A healthy body is a healthy mind."

It is common knowledge that a quality crime fighter also needs a healthy mind to help him/her unravel some of the crime mysteries the job of a police officer throws his/her way.


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