Acting National Commissioner. Lt Gen JK Phahlane

Senior Management of the SAPS

Training staff

The new members

Today we are here to congratulate you on the achievement of successfully completing this policing basic course and the fact that you are now being released to go and serve the people you have sworn to protect – even with your lives if need be.

This is not an easy task. This is not an easy calling but a calling it is nonetheless. It would be easier to tell you that the communities that you are now going to be released to will accept you with open arms.

It would be easier to tell you that the cooperation that you will need to effectively do your jobs will be forthcoming.

It would also be easy to tell you that your lives will be safe – and protected by citizens who value the kind of sacrifice you are taking by becoming policemen and women.

But that would not be true.

The reality is that we are sending you like sheep amongst wolves into a world that has varying degrees of respect and appreciation for the police. We are all too aware of the pressures and challenges that our police face in this day and age.

We send you out understanding that your primary role is to protect life and yet, this may be achieved by having to take a life. We understand and appreciate that preventing crimes may require a certain level of deception and sometime an unwelcome intrusion into the lives and homes of our citizens.

Policing, by its nature, confers extraordinary powers on your shoulders. But you have to exercise this power with care.

You must always be aware, in the back of your mind, that the power has been granted to you by a nation that expects the best out of you – even though they may not act in your best interests.

You need to exercise this power knowing very well that we are still navigating a chequered history that calls into question the legitimacy of the exercise of this power.

But you need not worry. If you do your job ethically, you may well have achieved a significant advantage and legitimacy in the eyes of those you serve and this will enhance your power rather than demean it.

The best exercise of power lies in humility. It is treating every person irrespective of age, gender, race or sex with the veneration that they are all God’s creatures and deserve the ultimate respect.

In the words of the criminologist Tom Tyler, even though you may represent the threat of force and carry guns and clubs with you, but it is impractical to be everywhere all of the time. Therefore you shall always rely upon widespread, voluntary law-abiding behaviour which will then allow the entire police service the space and ability to concentrate resources on those people and situations in which compliance is difficult to obtain.

In other words, you are ambassadors not only for the police service but for the entire government because most people have the first interaction with government services through police and policing. As such you need to be aware that sometimes professionalism alone will not be enough.

Tyler argues that:

A key value that people hold is their widespread support for the legitimacy of the police – the belief that the police are entitled to call upon the public to follow the law and help combat crime and that members of the public have an obligation to engage in cooperative behaviours. When people feel that an authority is legitimate, they authorize that authority to determine what their behaviour will be within a given set of situations. Such an authorization of an authority “seem[s] to carry automatic justification. … Behaviourally, authorization obviates the necessity of making judgments or choices.”

You gain this acceptance if you act ethically. What does acting ethically mean in reality?

It is always being aware that the everyone you deal with, whether poor or rich, have been, as the Bible attests, made in God’s image. That is acting ethically.

Refusing to succumb to making easy money is acting ethically. Using the resources that have been entrusted with optimally in order to achieve the objectives of your roles in a manner that shows responsibility and care is acting ethically.

This is the start of a new journey. At times it will be perilous. Sometimes it will be enjoyable. But in all instances, act in the way that would best mirror what you would like to hear as positive testimony by those whom you serve.

This is also a start of your new journey in terms of you self-development. This is a continuous journey. You should read without ceasing. Enrol for further studies and continuously challenge yourself to improve. But this advice is not only directed at the new members but to all of you. You cannot lead if you do not read. There is a direct correlation between good leaders and reading widely.

Being informed improves your confidence and confident people tend to act in a way that is more accepting of the different people they have to deal with every day. Make today the beginning of your lifelong journey of learning. I wish you well in your future and make us proud.

I thank you all.