Every day we walk past the men and women in blue or drive past their police vans, but have you ever wondered what it takes to be a police officer?
We spoke to some of the police men and women on duty at the Mitchell’s Plain South African Police Service (SAPS) in Town Centre.
Captain Sam Nassau, 49, at the firearm, liquor and second hand goods unit, started working as a policeman in 1988. He has a wealth of experience in his profession and loves what he does, particularly helping people and being of service.
To be a policeman is to be able to adapt, have patience and understand how your environment works. It is also about adding value to people’s lives while providing them with a service, he said.
“Some days are stressful and difficult, but it’s always a good feeling knowing that we can serve and protect the community,” said Captain Nassau.
Captain Ian Williams, 47, at the communications unit, started working as a policeman in 1995. He enjoys his job and believes you need to put your heart into what you do.
As police, their mandate is to fight crime and create a safer South Africa, he said. But they don’t fight crime on their own.
They also work with other role players in the community to make Mitchell’s Plain safer.
Constable Nozuko Makwayiba, 37, also in the communications unit, started working as a police officer in 2011. She likes the thrill of the job, being exposed to new challenges and meeting new people. She also loves working with children.
Explaining the challenges police officers face daily, Constable Makwayiba said being away from one’s family can be challenging but one learns to manage.
The others agree that this is one of the most difficult aspects of being a police officer.
Knowing the dangers and hardships of their job, police officers risk their lives and that of their families to serve, protect and uphold the law, said Captain Nassau.
To become a police officer, you need a matric certificate and training from the police department. During your training you will also undergo medical and fitness tests. Once you’ve passed those, you will do a psychometric test to determine what you’re good at or where your interests lie, until you’re recruited to be part of the police service.
How to report a crime or lay a complaint:
The community can either go to the police station to lay a complaint or call the national emergency number 10111.
A file will be registered and the complaint investigated by the police who will consider things such as who was involved, when the incident happened and what happened at the scene.
“It depends on the situation as each one is unique,” said Captain Williams.
“Being a police officer goes further than just putting on the uniform and doing your daily activities. When one is off duty, you cannot say that you are not going to listen to a complaint. Having compassion and being humane is part of being a police officer. Your service never stops,” said Captain Nassau.
The community plays an important role in how the police service enforces the law and is encouraged to work with the police to keep the area safe.
“We need to work together and not against each other because we are not the enemy. We are human beings, part of the same community,” said Captain Nassau.
Asked what it was like being a woman in the service, Constable Makwayiba said women were not treated differently from their male counterparts.
“I love working with people, especially kids. For the past two years, I started being the referee in SAPS. I was the first woman to become a referee within the cluster leagues in the police services,” she said.
To this, Captain Nassau added: “Being a policeman is not about money or about job satisfaction, it is a calling that only certain people can do. Sometimes you don’t get the appreciation that you would expect, but that is what the calling is.
“You have to embrace the fact that just as some people don’t appreciate you; others do, and that is what makes it worthwhile. Knowing that somewhere, somehow, someone is appreciating what we do, is all worth it.”