THE new macho police strategy of shoot-to-kill is not the solution.

THE new macho police strategy of shoot-to-kill is not the solution.

The real danger of the policy is that it will encourage trigger-happy police, as likely has been the case in the tragic shooting of Olga Kekana in Pretoria, who was mistaken by the police for a car hijacker, last Sunday.

Firstly, the argument that criminals have used South Africa's model Constitution and legislation to evade the law is just foolish. Surely, the woeful performance of the police and the poor state of the criminal justice system cannot be blamed on the Constitution and its laws.

For another, the Criminal Procedure Act as it stands, which Police Commissioner Bheki Cele blames for police inadequacy and wants to amend - with the support of President Jacob Zuma - already gives the police sufficient power to use force if they or the public are in danger.

Better policing and an effective criminal justice system must be at the heart of any turnaround strategy to curb crime.

We must start by dealing with the perceptions that some dodgy political figures are above prosecuting, if they have the right political connections or are aligned with the right political faction within the ANC.

We must also take politics out of policing, as we must also take business out of policing, asking those with business connections to get rid of it.

The police force has a credibility problem that must be dealt with. There is a perception in the public image that some bad apple policemen are in cahoots with, if not, criminals themselves.

Often almost everybody in a township knows who the criminals are.

Yet, the police in many cases often appear not to know or ignore this.

If the police leadership strategy is to score big wins early on in the fight against crime, the first thing the police must do is to round up the most known (by communities) bigwig criminal bosses across the country.

Furthermore, there is a perception that in some instances the police are picking on soft targets, rather than taking head-on the big criminal masterminds.

The police must get elementary police work right, take proper notes, be able to do the right things at a crime scene, not to lose firearms and dockets.

The vacancies in the police force must be filled, even if it means recruiting all those who took voluntary retrenchment packages before.

Cele must go on a drive to attract specialist skills to the police service, and expand the recruitment pool, especially to the leadership, to bring the best possible talent on board. He must reinstate the specialised police units, such as the narcotics bureau, the family violence, child protection and sexual offences units. Build more forensic science laboratories, and recruit more scientists.

A police station should be built in every township.

Recruit at least 100000 more officers for detective work. Furthermore, recruit another 150000 matriculants who are unemployed, and employ them as police assistants.

The police must release crime statistics regularly, transparently, so that we can clearly measure progress. As part of a comprehensive anti-crime, poverty and job creation strategy, the government must introduce a basic income grant to help people affected by poverty.

This will with one stroke deal with those who are forced to commit crime just to survive, and help focus police resources elsewhere, where it matters most.

lGumede is author of Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC