Atlantis police and community relations at an all-time low

Over the past two years, various cases of police brutality and tension between officers and residents were often seen on camera.

Residents of Atlantis, in Cape Town, said they had no faith in the police in the area, accusing officers of brutality and not serving the community. Picture: Graig-Lee Smith/Eyewitness News.

CAPE TOWN - The community of Atlantis, in Cape Town, say they have no confidence in their local police station.

Tensions are at an all-time high between community members and SAPS officials.

Over the past two years, various cases of police brutality and tension between officers and residents were often seen on camera.

Community members and police often clash with each other when they take to streets in protest over service delivery, housing and calls for better policing.

Residents have pleaded with police officials and Western Cape SAPS leadership to intervene before things get worse.

Eyewitness News visited the area and most people say police members do not care and accused officers of turning a blind eye to their concerns.

Some community members say gangsterism and crime are at an all-time high and the police is nowhere when to be seen when they need them.

One resident said: “Personally, I feel that the police does not serve their duty in our community. We can’t even rely on them for assistance. It feels as if the police are scared or more scared of the gangsters.”

Clinton Nolan - a former police officer who quit his job to become a social worker - said he understood the tensions between police officers and community members.

“So, you put on a uniform and the police sees you as a direct enemy. That was quite a struggle for me because most of me and my colleagues we come from the communities.”

He said while there were police officers who were guilty of police brutality and corruption, not all were the same.

“There are a minority of police officers who are using brutal force, unreasonable force. There are a minority who are corrupt in the communities. The communities are aware of them, so we have those cases, but they are the minority.”

NOT ALL POLICE OFFICERS ARE ROTTEN APPLES

Nolan said the media played a very important role in telling these stories. He said many didn’t report the positive things police do.

“The media has a mediatory role that they are playing; and unfortunately most that is being displayed is police brutality it’s the corruption and all of those things… those stories create a narrative in the minds of society. You never hear stories of - for an example - during the lockdown there was a lot of police officers who were helping with soup kitchens, feeding the poor on duty and off duty. Or you don’t see stories of police offices helping and buying fuel for them maybe they are stuck behind the road.”

Western Cape police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said the provincial office was concerned about what was happening in Atlantis. She said they had intervened and appointed a new station commander at the Atlantis police station.

“It is the beginning of a new era in Atlantis and we are hoping with the communities on board that we’ll make a difference in that area.”

Potelwa said internal investigations were under way and action would be taken against those found guilty of misconduct.

APPROACH WC POLICE OMBUDSMAN

Meanwhile, the Western Cape legislature said it was concerned over what was happening in Atlantis.

The chairperson for community safety Reagen Allen urged community members to report any violations or misconduct from police officers to the Western Cape police ombudsman’ office.

“As the chairperson, I will continue to encourage residents to approach the Western Cape police ombudsman should they have any concerns with regards to SAPS’s inefficiencies or service delivery that they may encounter in their various areas.”

The Western Cape police ombudsman has told Eyewitness News that 17 complaints were reported against SAPS in Atlantis in the last financial year.

Complaints range from poor communication to poor investigation.

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