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Report on Series of Workshops
for Station Commissioners
in KwaZulu-Natal


These series of seven workshops for Station Commissioners were organised at the request of the Provincial SAPS Training Department with the stated goal of imparting Conflict Resolution and Group Problem solving skills to Station Commissioners in KwaZulu Natal in order to facilitate the formation and running of CPF's. The workshops were held throughout the Province during the month of September and included 129 of the Provinces Station Commissioners or in a few cases their nominated reps.

The workshops were held at these dates at the following venues:

04 - 06 SeptUlundi Area OfficeUlundi Area
17 - 19 SeptHibberdene Leisure ResortUmzimkulu Area
17 - 19 SeptChatsworth CollegeDurban Central/North Area
18 - 20 SeptRichards Bay Police StationUmfolozi Area
25 - 27 SeptChatsworth CollegeDurban South/West Area
25 - 27 SeptAlexandra Road Officers ClubMidlands Area
25 - 27 SeptClub Roosi NewcastleTugela Area

All the workshops followed a similar basic programme with the same role plays and content in order to ensure continuity and in order to allow effectiveness and relevance to be measured with some validity.

The broad content of workshops was as follows:

  • Introduction and expectations
  • What is Conflict and Conflict Handling Styles
  • Communication and Assertiveness Skills
  • What is Community Policing
  • Group Problem Solving using a CPF scenario
  • Co Operative Behaviour
  • Power, Climate and Environment and how they impact on Negotiations
  • Planning and the Negotiation Encounter

The broad purpose of the workshops was to provide police with an opportunity to practice some conflict resolution skills through the format of experiential training and to allow the sharing of ideas and experiences. In addition the fact that the IPT is a non police body allowed some alternative ideas and experiences to be discussed - input from a community based organisation was seen as being of real value by the police. Although a similar format was followed for all workshops they differed in that the workshops are led by the delegates discussions and therefore different issues were raised and discussed. What follows is a compilation of all seven workshops with notations of any wide discrepancies.

Expectations of Workshop

  • To gain knowledge / skills applicable to work situations
  • to be able to resolve conflicts in stations by using better skills
  • to get information on CPF's
  • to get different methods of dealing with problems
  • to solve problems on CPF's
  • to find out how to amalgamate sub forums
  • how to deal with apathy
  • how to deal with CPF's being used as a complaints forum
  • to get skills to create a better relationship between police and communities
  • share ideas from outside of the SAPS
  • share ideas form inside the SAPS
  • how to motivate staff within the station
  • how to deal with communities wanting to control the police
  • dealing with political representatives
  • how to get funds for forums
  • to get solutions to problems
  • how to deal with "stray elements" in CPF's

In addition to the above verbatim list of expectations some delegates felt they had "no expectations" of the workshop and a few felt that they had sufficient skills to cope and that an additional workshop was just a waste of time. Some time was also spent on discussing the concerns of delegates that this would be another theoretical lecture session which would simply be a repeat of issues that they felt had been dealt with by others in the past.

What is Conflict and Conflict Handling Styles

After brainstorming a definition for conflict the conflict strategy game Red/Blue was used to initiate discussion about conflict handling styles and group behaviour in conflict situations. These concepts were analysed using the Thomas Kilman Conflict Handling Mode instrument and the group discussed the impact of various modes of conflict handling styles on the operation of community police forums.

Communication and Assertiveness

The session began with brainstorming a definition for communication which was then analysed and discussed. The facilitator then got the group to develop an extensive list of what helps and what hinders communication. Using a fishbowl exercise three delegates from the group demonstrated "good" and "bad" communication skills in order to stimulate discussion. Almost all of the groups participated very actively in this module and it was obvious that the concepts had been dealt with previously since the input and discussion was of a superior level.

After agreeing on a definition of assertiveness and discussing the difference between assertiveness, aggression and accommodation the group completed a role play scenario between Sgt Khumalo and Sgt Smith. This situation looks at an interaction between a young policeman and an older policeman with very different points of view and the delegates are encouraged to use the "I" statement and try and be assertive rather than aggressive or accommodating. This role play gave rise to an interesting range of behaviours - many delegates felt very intimidated by the older policeman, others became quite aggressive when their point of view was threatened. When delegates used the "I" statement they reported that they were surprised by the positive effect that it had on the conversation. Some of the comments after this role play centred on how police were seldom given an opportunity to express their feelings, that differences between "new" policemen and "old type" police were very real and that it was often difficult when returning from workshops with new ideas to sell them to people who had not been trained. Some time was then spent on how to manage emotions and most delegates felt that this was a very useful and relevant module for police.

What is Community Policing?

In order to ensure that all participants were dealing with issues within a common context some time was spent on defining what participants understood by community policing and what they felt the role of a CPF was. It was also important to identify some common problems which were being experienced within these forums.

What is Community Policing?

  • the formation of a CPF
  • active service
  • joint partnership between community and police
  • meeting through a neutral platform
  • to jointly solve problems
  • joint planning and responsibility
  • two way beneficial relationship
  • negotiation between community and police
  • involves using reservists
  • addressing the root causes of problems
  • open door policy - police are accessible and transparent
  • joint responsibility to fight crime
  • to lower the crime rate
  • way to get community support
  • allows police to identify community needs
  • allows police to inform community about police issues and problems
  • can provide protection for police in communities
  • get community involvement in social problems
  • promotion of interaction between police and community
  • visible policing
  • should involve other govt dept's etc justice, correctional services, welfare, education, police unions etc
  • should involve NGO'S
  • sharing of knowledge
  • rendering of a professional service
  • platform for education ie. human rights, legal process
  • provides a united front against crime
  • utilization of resources - money, personnel, information
  • allows identification of criminals
  • should be "culture" of community
  • problem solving by SAPS and community
  • new methods / philosophy

Problems with community policing

  • used by public as a complaints forum
  • people who are dissatisfied with police service tend to join forum
  • no funds (this was an issue which was raised continuously)
  • communities want to be prescrIPTive
  • politicised
  • no channel of communication to the top
  • no training before implementation
  • power struggles
  • criticism
  • misuse by some sectors of the community
  • too much emphasis on establishment and not enough on implementation
  • poor logistics
  • way of attacking police
  • confusion
  • perception that community policing is soft on crime
  • certain groups want priority
  • using the CPF to gain status within the community
  • distances between areas
  • lack of involvement by other government structures / departments
  • poor policing
  • promises are not met
  • misconceptions

In all the workshops this section raised numerous discussion around what had worked and what had not worked in the various stations. Station commissioner who had successful CPF's were very keen to share their methods and ideas and in areas where there were common problems it seemed that members had not had an opportunity to share experiences before this. In general a common theme that emerged was the feeling that members were not being given sufficient internal support in setting up and maintaining CPF's. The issue of funds was an important and emotional one which our trainers were not able to address.

Group Problem Solving

Using the context developed in the previous session the groups were divided into smaller groups and given a fictitious situation in which they were asked to use the Group Problem Solving process to generate possible solutions to a CPF problem involving several other role players. The scenario given was as follows:

You are policemen at XYZ Police Station. The police station covers both area X - a predominantly white residential area and area Y - a semi urban black area with some informal settlement . Area X has an all white community police forum that is operational but they are indifferent and very passive and unmotivated. The members refuse to have any Area Y community people on the forum since they believe that the area Y residents are responsible for the crime in Area X. Area Y residents do not have a CPF but would like one, many of these residents are also employed within Area X. There is a satellite police station within Area Y.

In each workshop area X and area Y were given different names which had a relevance to the groups being trained and small additional details were added which were contextual to the groups area of operations.

The small groups spent approximately 30 minutes identifying possible role players, setting a goal which the members of the police station wished to achieve and brainstorming possible solutions. Below is a compilation of some of the outputs from the small groups:

Problems Identified

  • mistrust between two communities
  • lack of communication
  • racial intolerance
  • CPF not representative of whole community
  • real facts not known
  • no job / recreation opportunities
  • lack of policing resources in area Y
  • no effective sub structure
  • political differences

Goals Set

  • establish an effective efficient CPF
  • to bring the different communities together
  • to develop a more representative forum
  • to create harmony amongst the community in the area
  • to create a forum at area y and then create a umbrella body to link both forums

Possible options

  • Disband present forum and start again
  • set up a sub forum in area Y
  • get crime statistics and analyse crime patterns to identify those responsible
  • start with a crime awareness day in area y
  • identify employment opportunities for area y residents in area x
  • employers to become aware of their employees problems
  • involve all community leaders in both areas
  • establishment of neighbourhood watch
  • training workshops
  • set up a youth information process through schools
  • election and implementation of sub forums
  • churches to arrange sporting events between communities
  • forum to be used to bring pressure on parent when juveniles are arrested
  • re-distribution of resources in a more equitable fashion
  • change perceptions through informal interaction - braai's etc.
  • use media to change perceptions and share information
  • involve prominent people in the area to sell the concept of a joint forum
  • re think the policing strategy in the areas
  • encourage communities to co-operate by educating to current problems
  • co-operation between communities to recover stolen property

This session engendered some very lively interaction and discussion about the various options and processes open to police in the successful implementation of community policing.

Co Operative Behaviour

Having spent some time looking at problem solving within a group we began to look at how to deal with problems when there were two or more groups involved with differing goals and needs. This concept was examined via the Nykoville Role play - a role play which deals with a conflict of interests between a Residents Committee and a Taverners association. In some cases this role play was done with Police Facilitators and in others without any facilitator role. It was interesting to note that when there were police facilitators both the taverners and the community representatives began to turn on the police and blame them for parts of the problem - a situation which delegates had claimed happened continually in real situations. Some useful ideas were shared as to how to avoid this happening when police are in a facilitation role.

Power, Climate and Environment

This module gave the delegates the opportunity to identify various sources of power available to both the police and the community. How this power could be utilised, both negatively and positively, was examined as were the consequences of either choice. Time was spent discussing how police could use their power co operatively although this option was not accepted by everyone. Delegates were then able to identify the issues and role players which made up their environment and which determined the climate in which they operated. It was then possible to examine possible ways of improving the climate prior to the formation of a CPF in order to increase the chances of it succeeding and also how to avoid creating a negative climate which was conducive to failure.

Planning and the Negotiation Encounter

Using a multiparty negotiation role play centred around a conflict between two taxi associations, the process of planning for a negotiation was examined and an actual multiparty negotiation was enacted. At most of the workshops the role play was concluded successfully and although many of the role players found it difficult to work co operatively with others they did use the communication and assertiveness skills effectively.

Feedback from Participants

Although many of the workshop began with a slightly negative atmosphere with many delegates indicating that they felt it was unlikely they would find much benefit from yet another conflict management workshop the individual feedback was almost unanimously positive. The most common comment was that it was the first time delegates had an opportunity to actively practice and experience some of the issues under discussion during a workshop. There was also a feeling that a non SAPS mind set had created a workshop which gave new insights. A very strong message received from the participants was that this type of training was constantly available to police members at their level but was needed more at junior levels and for police members who were in constant contact with members of the public.

Iole Matthews
Head of Training : IPT

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