The Function of The Police: Crime, Social Emergencies, and Disorder

“The Function of The Police: Crime, Social Emergencies, and Disorder” is a seminal publication by the New South Institute (NSI), released on June 14, 2023. Authored by NSI’s Executive Director and co-founder, Ivor Chipkin, the work delves into a comprehensive exploration of the crucial aspects of police function in South Africa.

The paper illuminates the complexities and nuances that exist within the realm of police work, making a clear distinction between crimes, social emergencies, and disorders. Through this lens, it discusses how these elements interact and the role of the police in managing situations that pose threats to social order. Chipkin’s research underlines the necessity of a police service that aligns with the needs of ordinary South Africans and addresses the historical biases within the system.

Building on the optimism of the early 2000s towards police reform in South Africa, the study traces the path that led to an increasingly politicized police service. After the appointment of Jackie Selebi as National Police Commissioner in 2000, the narrative changed, resulting in a selective approach to policing influenced by political implications. This shift underscored the disturbing reality of the police service distancing itself from its core function of responding to crimes and social emergencies.

The study underscores the need for depoliticizing the police force, marking it as the first step in redirecting the institution’s focus towards handling crime and interpersonal emergencies effectively. This involves establishing the autonomy of the police as a corps of public officials and reconsidering the appointment process for top positions.

Concluding on a note of hope, the study redefines the function of policing in South Africa. It goes beyond the surface to tackle the foundational question of what the police’s function should be in a democratic society. A police force that not only maintains law and order and manages emergencies but also safeguards the democratic processes from political interference is envisioned. By adopting this comprehensive approach, South Africa is poised to forge a path towards creating an effective, democratic police service that genuinely serves and protects its citizens.

Click here to download the publication.

Related Content