The police at the One-stop Child Justice Centre
Inspector Tumelo Mofokeng
Being appointed as the commanding officer at the One-stop Child Justice Centre was a very exciting challenge. I did not know exactly what was expected of me and how this Centre had to operate. But after a visit to Stepping Stones One-stop Centre and formal training of all stakeholders I felt more comfortable to tackle the challenge.
There are nine police officials and nine guards working on a 24-hour shift basis at Mangaung and the general tasks include:
The police take responsibility for keeping the holding facilities in good order. A total of 194 children occupied the cells from 1 June to 20 October 2002 and we receive an average of ten children per weekend.
Although the police official cannot be the child's "buddy", it is important to handle these children with patience and respect. Children tend to tease the police - for instance, they keep on ringing the bells in the holding facilities and asking for assistance. They are also sometimes cheeky, arrogant and stubborn. They put obstructions in the toilets to block them, they write on the walls with the black ink used for taking fingerprints, they steal face-cloths and linen, and they shout and scream and sing in the shower.
Mostly this behaviour should be seen as their way of dealing with their uncomfortable situation. At our Centre the police officials put a lot of effort into accommodating the different moods of the children, even when it is not easy.
Training the police to empower them to deal with these children is of the utmost importance. The police have therefore been involved in all training and motivation sessions as presented by the Centre manager.
Finally, teamwork is essential, as we have to work with the stakeholders all day and every day. At this stage a very positive working relationship exists and we have every intention of keeping it up!