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A Facilitation and Training programme to implement the Victim Empowerment Programme in Six stations of the South African Police Service

An Executive Summary

This executive summary provides an abbreviation of both the 9 page activity report and 95-page evaluation of the year-long training and facilitation programme designed by the Independent Projects Trust (the IPT) to implement the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) in six stations of the South African Police Service. Here an introduction offers a brief description of the activities undertaken during the intervention, an overview of the findings, a brief description of the target stations, the criteria for the evaluation, and the method of conducting the evaluation. Then the four sections from the larger report which detail the findings are condensed here into a two-part discussion covering `pre-intervention findings' and `outcomes' and the document ends with a conclusion.

Intervention Activities

Our activities followed a multi faceted approach aimed at ensuring the implementation of a effective support service to victims both by the police and by other agencies working in the field. To this end we provided the following over the one year period:

  • Training Elicitive "victim support skills" workshops which facilitated the skills and attitudes necessary for the delivery of a service which empowers victims were run for members of the SAPS

  • Facilitation was provided throughout the life of the programme in order to create an internal forum in the SAPS for ongoing dialogue and support amongst police members. Facilitation was also provided to support internal meetings and to provide processes for problem solving and planning.

  • Networking amongst other service providers such as NICRO, Lifeline etc and with other departments who have a role in the VEP. This involved hosting meetings, introducing organisations and individuals to the police and sharing information amongst stakeholders involved in the process.

  • Documentation was produced to enhance the implementation process and included handouts, posters, crisis cards, and a directory of service providers. In addition two issues of insight @ ipt were produced to increase the profile of victim empowerment issues

  • Lobbying information was gathered, analysed and disseminated in order to both increase public knowledge of the VEP as well as to influence policy in order to ensure the long term delivery by the state.

All of the above activities were tracked by the research component of the programme.


The research and evaluation of this project provided a significant opportunity to offer information to SAPS and service providers on `best practices' when implementing the VEP as was presented at a public briefing in Durban on June 2, 2000. The strategic interventions in a variety of stations, including four in KwaZulu-Natal and two in the Eastern Cape, resulted in modest to very substantial improvements in victim support services. Moreover, greater levels of improvement were recorded wherever it was possible to foster partnerships between the stations and NGOs, business, the community police fora, government departments and other community stakeholders. This included integrating the VEP with other strategies aimed at improving service delivery and public safety.

These results challenged the idea conveyed by many SAPS members at the start of the project that success in improving victim support depends on station resources. The station with the least resources, located in the most disadvantaged area of the study made very significant progress even compared with four better resourced stations. None of the strategic interventions that had the most impact were based on increasing resources although strategic partnerships and networking led to improvements in facilities for victims and the public at five out of six stations.

Those stations that made substantial progress in the study were those that achieved these basic conditions:

  • identifying change agents within the stations to champion the improvements
  • integrating victim support with other existing programmes like the Service Delivery Improvement Programme (SDIP)
  • being part of a multi-agency approach
  • conducting proper needs assessments and delivering on those needs
  • networking with the community and important role-players
  • and VEP training that targets 50% or more of station members

Where one or more of these elements were not achieved stations tended to make slower progress.

A dividend of the comparative aspect of the research came from observing a practice being developed in the Eastern Cape whereby an NGO had established Community Care Centres from an office inside the station to which victims could be immediately referred. The NGO trained volunteers in trauma counselling skills, supported them with materials such as directories and newsletters, and maintained records. This was found to offer a number of benefits including more professional care, increased efficiency, a means of evaluating and monitoring victim care through a central agency, freeing station members for more core policing and strengthening SAPS/community relations owing to the proper care of victims.

The Target Stations

The IPT implemented its programme in four stations located in the Durban Policing Area and contracted an NGO based in Port Elizabeth, the Programme for Conflict Resolution and Development (PCRD), to implement the training, facilitation and certain research components in the two Eastern Cape Stations (New Brighton and Kabega Park). The target stations were:

    Inanda: a station of 164 members that has three satellites and serves a predominately `black' 882 square km semi-rural area that includes 17 informal settlements

    Westville: a station of 61 members that serves a predominately `white' and prosperous 31 square km residential suburb with no informal settlements

    Umbilo: a station of 112 members that serves 24 square kilometres of a culturally, racially and economically mixed residential community along with a zone of industrial and institutional activities that more than doubles the population during the day

    Point: a station of 143 members that serves a densely populated 3.2 square kilometre urban area that is the focal point of Durban's tourist industry and its red light district

    Kabega Park: a station of 85 members with a 432 square kilometre jurisdiction that includes resorts, farms, shopping centres and built-up suburban areas

    New Brighton: a station of 209 members that serves a densely populated 20 square kilometre township where Xhosa-speakers dominate as a population

As can be seen above the stations included peri urban, suburban and urban stations serving many different kinds of populations and activities that placed different kinds of constraints on personnel and resources in the effort to help victims. The size of the stations' jurisdictions range from 3.2 sq km (Point) to 882 sq km (Inanda). This variation in conditions, facilities and resources presented a good opportunity to evaluate the procedures and best practices for improving victim care.

Criteria for the evaluation

Under agreement with the European Union Foundation for Human Rights, the IPT aimed to achieve four basic goals that described an improved environment for victim care. These goals were also the criteria for the evaluation and included:

Criteria One:

    Victims are receiving a more empathetic, professional and efficient service from the SAPS in the target stations both in terms an improved interaction with the police member and better facilities

Criteria Two:

    Increased levels of co operation and interaction between SAPS and service providers

Criteria Three:

    All police members carrying a `crisis card' which details the essential victim empowerment steps and which carries key contact numbers and information

Criteria Four:

    An improved public perception of police service delivery

The method for measuring change

The conditions found in each station at the baseline varied enormously and constituted an important variable in evaluating the outcomes. A relatively prosperous station in a low-crime, wealthy, suburban area devoid of any informal settlements (e.g., Westville) faces different challenges and has more capacity to implement the VEP quickly than a poorly resourced, rural, `black' station with seventeen informal settlements (e.g., Inanda). Therefore `progress' in implementing the VEP is a better measurement of the implementation programme than just the final outcome. To identify the progress achieved by each station a rating system was used and each station was evaluated according to the four criteria. These ratings included:

  • no progress (no noticeable improvement in service delivery)

  • modest progress (minor improvements in service delivery are noticeable)

  • significant progress (an improved level of service is being routinely observed)

  • substantial progress (major improvements in service delivery are routinely observed)

Eleven methods of gathering data were used including repeating four of these methods at two different stages: before the intervention and after the intervention. This meant that fifteen different research efforts were made. This ensured that we could evaluate the progress in each station according to all four criteria, cross-check our results, and that the failure of any one method would not lead to the failure of the entire evaluation. These methods were applied in all six stations:

  • Baseline assessments prior to any interventions

  • Suggestion box questionnaires for public users of the Community Service Centres (pre-intervention and repeated post-intervention)

  • Interviews with victims of crime (pre-intervention and post-intervention)

  • Interviews with CPF members (pre-intervention and repeated post-intervention)

  • Station observations (pre-intervention and repeated post-intervention)

  • Monitoring workshops and meetings

  • Interviews with service providers (post-intervention)

  • Interviews with workshop participants (post-intervention)

  • Change Agents Workshop in which outcomes were discussed, outlined, and presented by station members representing the programme

  • A post-intervention survey of station commissioners

  • Post-intervention focus groups with station management

Pre-Intervention Findings

Before training was implemented quite a substantial set of data was gathered as part of a baseline study against which we could measure change. The baseline revealed that:

  • all the stations had room to improve on victim services with regard to providing a more empathetic, professional and efficient service on a consistent basis

  • in all stations service delivery to victims was reportedly constrained by resource shortages both in terms of personnel and materials; the two best resourced stations appeared to be offering victims a better service while the lesser equipped stations seemed to offer the worst service

  • in every station low morale --often attributed by both station management and the public to personnel shortages, high workloads and stress-- was reported as a major problem affecting victim care

  • five out of six stations had Crisis Care Centres but the standard of the facility varied and in most cases they were under-utilised

  • Victim Empowerment Programme was virtually unknown among the vast majority of station members

  • very few members had knowledge of the National Instructions on Victim Support

  • cooperation with outside service providers was minimal except at one station where NGO trained and supported volunteers worked from an office inside the station to which traumatised victims could be immediately referred

  • at the pre-intervention stage, no member in any of the six stations carried crisis cards for making referrals to outside service providers.

  • most stations needed support in improving their image within the community owing to public concerns about such matters as professionalism, response times, communication skills and the quality of dockets


    Since the success of the intervention depends on the progress that each station made, numeric values were used to evaluate this. The intention is not to compare and judge stations but to measure the degree of progress each station made from the baseline. This evaluates the impact of the programme on each, not the worthiness of the stations. In Figure 3 below the stations are given in the order of their progress from the baseline.

    The progress according to each criteria is tallied to measure overall progress. A station that made no progress in any category would earn a `0'. A station where the programme helped but was not as effective as hoped would score four or below (2 stations). The expected level of progress would fall between five and eight (3 stations) and a very effective programme exceeding expectations would fall in the range of nine to 12 (1 station). Thus, on the whole, all stations made progress with two below the expected level, three meeting the expected level and one exceeding expectations. The diversity of results is useful as it allows one to examine best practices and to identify the kinds of situations in which implementing the VEP can be most effective.

    The numeric values given are as follows:

    0 = no progress
    1 = modest progress
    2 = significant progress
    3 = substantial progress

    Figure 3: Outcomes in terms of progress in implementing the VEP

    Station Criteria 1 Criteria 2 Criteria 3 Criteria 4 Total
    Kabega Park (3) (3) (3) (3) 12
    Inanda (2) (2) (3) (1) 8
    Point (2) (3) (0) (2) 7
    Westville (2) (2) (0) (2) 6
    New Brighton (1) (3) (0) (0) 4
    Umbilo (1) (1) (0) (1) 3

    A most significant finding within these results is that the best resourced stations did no better on average than the least resourced -- there is no fixed pattern according to a station's level of resources. In fact, the least resourced station scored second in terms of progress while the best resourced scored fourth. This means that there are clearly other important factors aside from station resources that can be improved for better victim care even though this was identified by the management in all six stations as the critical factor during the baseline assessments.

    The pattern of outcomes actually discloses that those stations that had effective partnerships fared better than those that did not regardless of the intervening agency or the level of resources. One good example of this is from the Eastern Cape where the PCRD offered the same services to both the station that scored the highest and the one that scored next to the lowest (New Brighton). The key difference was that the PCRD formed an effective partnership at Kabega Park through enthusiastic change agents and was unable to achieve this at New Brighton. Kabega Park then went on to establish successful partnerships with the business community, the CPF (which had previously been dysfunctional) and other outside service providers.

    The above example might also suggest an issue of resources since Kabega Park was better resourced than New Brighton but Inanda was even less resourced than New Brighton and made the second highest level of progress. Comparing these last two helps explain why New Brighton received the second lowest score while Inanda received the second highest. The three key differences should inform future interventions:

    • Inanda had change agents that helped drive the programme whereas New Brighton did not verifying the utility of this approach

    • The IPT was part of a multi-agency approach at Inanda that included Business Against Crime, Unilever, the SDIP and the Presidential Project `Operation Crackdown' whereas this multi-agency approach was not available to New Brighton

    • Through facilitation the IPT offered more detailed attention to Inanda's specific needs (facilitation with the CPF and the station, negotiating First Aid Training, offering a community-police member to build support for the Service Delivery Improvement Programme) whereas this was effected only to a minor extent at New Brighton

    These factors offer evidence that a strategy aimed at improved service delivery can be effected despite a number of obstacles if there is a multi-agency approach, enthusiastic support for change within the station, and greater attention to specific needs. In other words it is recommended that:

    • improving victim support services should always be integrated into a larger strategy such as the Service Delivery Improvement Project or other existing national and provincial projects--in this manner SAPS stations can be aligned into a larger effort with larger inputs

    • interventions should focus on enthusiastic supporters within the station (change agents) even if management is weak

    • implementation focuses on specific station needs and that a one-programme-fits-all policy be avoided in favour of needs assessments and responding to those needs assessments in a diligent and considered manner

    To further explain these results and offer more details on the best environment and strategy for implementing the VEP, six of the best practices in the intervention will be highlighted followed by eight recommendations to improve, refine or eliminate certain aspects of the programme. Within this context both the role of SAPS and the role of the intervening NGO are addressed since they must be effective partners for any of these ideas to work.

    Six Practices with Impact

    Significantly, none of the six most successful practices depended on station resources but instead required attention to a successful form of partnership between key change agents within SAPS and the NGO personnel providing the facilitation and training. This alliance can even overcome weak support from the station commissioner and management. These were perhaps the best practices of the intervention in terms of impact:

    1. Change Agents

    The use of `Change Agents' within the stations proved to be an effective strategy that helped facilitate station `ownership' of the process, a means for monitoring the intervention and a contact person who assisted in the programme. This was a critical factor in overcoming weak management support in two stations. The one station - New Brighton - where change agents were not utilised and management support was weak rate near the bottom in terms of making progress.

    2. Networking

    Networking forums facilitated by both NGOs to bring change agents together with service providers not only resulted in improved relations and referrals but manifested in an upgrading of facilities in at least two stations. For example, a very important factor in improved victim care at both stations with the highest scores, Kabega Park and Inanda, were improved relations with outside service providers. Success in the situation requires both facilitation by the NGO and station members who take advantage of the opportunity to communicate with the service provider and find out how they can form partnerships.

    3. Furnishing stations with referral materials

    The publication of directories and posters that were placed in every Community Service Centre helped to systematize referrals and resulted in an increase in referrals, better treatment of victims and more professional confidence in handling victims. This, and including service providers in the training, accounted for the `substantial' rating New Brighton received with regard to improved relations with outside service providers. It is noteworthy that this occurred in a police station with poor resources and management problems.

    4. Good training content directed to a majority of members

    The content of the training workshops, including the workbook, was effective since it was sufficient to result in improvements in victim care by at least 75% of the trained members and had an impact on customer service that was widely recognised by the public, victims and CPF members where 50% or more of the members were trained. This means that the content requires much less attention than delivery of the training to a sufficient number of members to make a difference--it must comprise at least half of the members to have a noticeable impact. Catering to language needs could also boost the number of those members who can utilise the material and this is further addressed in the next section.

    5. Briefing SAPS management

    Establishing contact and providing a briefing with SAPS at national, provincial and area level prior to approaching the stations helped build commitment to the project and integrated it with the service delivery improvement programme. The IPT worked directly with appropriate SAPS officials at all levels of government.

    6. Monitoring and feedback

    Evaluation and monitoring should be considered crucial to implementing any programme as it allows for appropriate changes and adjustments in approaches both during the intervention and in terms of fine-tuning the next intervention. A February workshop in which change agents evaluated and recorded the progress of the programme was so successful in terms of feedback that this practice should be expanded to include two other intervals earlier in the programme so that interventions can be made into the training and facilitation programme where needed.

    Eight Lessons Learnt about Strategic Interventions to Implement the VEP

    The results also point to eight lessons learnt that could enhance the progress that SAPS can make in implementing the VEP at station level and therefore help build a better capacity for victim support. These include:

    1. Whole station training

    Whole station training should be emphasised even at the cost of reducing the number of target stations. All the evidence indicates problems and disappointments wherever fewer than 50% of the members were trained. Altogether "injection training" should be avoided but, if it is necessary owing to funding shortages, it is best allocated on the basis of half the members from each station, which ensures that a critical mass is reached.

    2. Follow-up workshops

    VEP training should take place in two workshops rather than one. A one-day workshop followed by a review a month later would improve member understanding, encourage the application of the material learnt and provide a monitoring function.

    3. Address literacy and language issues for full effectiveness

    Low education levels among police member was reported as a service delivery issue by victims, the public, and the station managers. SAPS must address this in terms of: higher entrance requirements, programmes that require members to enroll in basic education and , as a last resort, removing members who are not competent to perform their duties. Competency should also include a good understanding of the geography of the area in which they work as this was an issue for frequent public complaint. Since communication and listening skills were included in the VEP material and did have an impact on improving the quality of statements, SAPS should include this as part of basic training.

    Our research also showed that, in order to maximise the benefit of training, it is important for it to be offered in English, Zulu or Xhosa so that all members are able understand the content.

    4. A Stress Management Workshop for Members

    Both pre-intervention and post-intervention data point to the need to include a stress management workshop for police members as victims of trauma. High stress levels can be attributed to a complex variety of factors like high-crime environments, poor facilities, human resource shortages, and high workloads. Stress leads to both morale problems and the poor treatment of the public and victims. First treating the police as victims of trauma can have a major impact on how victims are treated and raise levels of empathy with victims substantially.

    5. Support, empower and monitor station management but put pressure on weak managers

    The efforts to improve victim support were constrained where stations were experiencing general problems of management and usually blossomed where there was strong and enthusiastic support for management. Management problems were reported and observed in three stations--two of these made either "modest" progress overall or "no progress" according to one of the criteria (crisis cards). This could be partly addressed through workshops in participative management.

    SAPS could consider a review of the human resource management structure. The present centralised structure means that it is slow to react to members who fail to perform to acceptable standards, and some devolution of powers within SAPS to station commissioners could have a positive impact on the quality of policing being delivered. If station commissioners could employ good members and dismiss poorly performing ones it would in all likelihood have a powerful effect on victim support for poorly performing members are often assigned to the critical interface between the public and the police, the Community Service Centre. However, SAPS should not be so decentralised that it cannot remove poorly performing management.

    There were some stations within the study that the public perceived as too poorly managed to gain their confidence and support. In this manner, partnerships that help deliver a good service to victims are impaired. SAPS can address this by ensuring the every station has well-paid, top quality leadership, monitors this performance and links it to promotions.

    6. Support the Community Police Fora and network with the community

    Evidence from five out of six of the stations make it clear that the Community Police Fora can be a significant resource for improving victim facilities. In one case, the CPF was non-functional at the beginning of the programme and flourishing at the end of it. It then raised funds for the station to revamp its Community Service Centre. Elsewhere effective CPFs have helped to provide vehicles, improved facilities, business partnerships, neighbourhood watches, public safety information, shelters for children, car watch programmes, and volunteers. Victims benefit from this kind of cooperation and therefore joint workshops in group problem solving between CPFs and station management are recommended for the purpose of building cooperation.

    SAPS and all stakeholders interested in improved police service should also advocate and lobby for funding and support to the Community Police Fora by those such as the Civilian Secretariat which has the responsibility to provide funding, research and support.

    7. Target the community

    Members of management in all six stations along with many CPF members that were interviewed thought that the community was not being properly targeted in the VEP. Victim support training of the CPF in one community resulted in residents volunteering to assist the police in victim care. The use of printed material, radio, television programmes and other means should be utilised to the public the problems of policing, the kinds of help communities can provide, and what actions to take with regard to crimes experienced or observed. This suggests a more holistic approach to the VEP that could have a direct impact on community-police relations.

    Since the active use of Crisis Cards was limited to two out of six stations, the expectation that members would carrying them in their pockets for handy usage seems unwarranted. It may be that directories and posters are sufficient for many stations and that a better strategy for the crisis cards is to package them for direct distribution to members of the public, perhaps through the community service centres or in cooperation with the community policing fora who also have an interest in distributing this information.

    8. Establish professionally run Crisis Care Centres

    A significant finding to emerge for building victim support services came observing victim care practices in the Eastern Cape. In particular, Kabega Park (and later New Brighton) had formed a partnership with an outside service provider, NICRO, to offer professionally-managed victim support services from a facility inside the station. The volunteers were trained and managed by an NGO rather than by SAPS personnel. A referral directory and a news letter were also part of this. The result was improved service through more professional care, increased efficiency, and a means of evaluating and monitoring victim care through a central agency. This system also frees station members for core policing while strengthening SAPS/community relations. The overall substantial success rating for Kabega Park owes a great deal to both this system and to the targeted intervention by the PCRD which further developed the relationship between the NICRO volunteers and station members.

    The professionally managed Crisis Care Centre provides a very good model for best practice. It is a relatively inexpensive approach that could potentially serve all areas of the country compared to investing large sums of money in one-stop victim care centres that are not ideally located to serve large numbers of people. Since different conditions obtain in different areas and there is a larger community of service providers and NGOs it is recommended that local NGOs and SAPS work through the provincial victim empowerment forum to see how this model can be implemented in each province.


    The research results do not mean that resources do not count for victim care. Given the high crime rates and the low police to population ratios in the study areas, there is a clear need for higher wages, more quality personnel and more resources. Otherwise an environment is created in which stress is high and morale is low, a bad combination for offering an empathetic, professional and efficient service to victims. These are problems that must be addressed in terms of:

      (1) finding ways to compensate police members for difficult and dangerous work;

      (2) better management of existing resources;

      (3) facilitating partnerships with CPFs and the business community;

      (4) addressing state resources to upgrading the poorest policing facilities;

      (5) offering participative management training;

      (6) workshop the members and management together in cooperative behaviour, and

      (7) devolve sufficient powers to the station commissioner so that this officer can play a strong leadership role and act on the advice and concerns of members.

    Nonetheless, this project has demonstrated that improved victim care can be brought about despite the severe resource shortages that our police stations suffer. For that reason, it must be recognised that resources alone do not account for victim care. It is equally crucial that SAPS build networks and form partnerships with service providers, business, CPFs, government agencies, churches, NGOs and community organisations since there was ample evidence to indicate that this approach was the key to the successful implementation of the VEP.

    July 2000

    For further information or access to the full report please contact -Iole Matthews

    All material c Copyright Independent Pojects Trust 1990-2002