Captain Paul Manuel, fondly known as Skollie, of Cape Town Central SAPS said he was all too happy to receive his new rank after 25 years of being a warrant officer.
However, he hopes he can still do community policing, where he works the field as part of the crime prevention unit. Skollie, who grew up in Goodwood, joined the police in 1986, because there was “nothing else he ever wanted to be”.
“My father was a police officer, but back in the day, all the boys either wanted to be a fireman, a pilot or a police officer. After high school, people change their minds and their interests change – I just never changed my mind.”
After police college, he started his career in Sea Point, where he worked for 20 years on shifts in the crime prevention unit.
“I worked on the beat, doing crime prevention. I was promoted to a shift commander and then sector commander. I love working with communities – they are our most valuable partners.”
He then moved to Cape Town Central police station, where he still formed part of crime prevention, and also did an eight-month stint at the Cyclops, watching cameras.
“I’m not really one to sit at a desk, but I thought I would optimise my time. I love watching people and their behaviour, so I started playing little games with myself – like ‘see if you can spot the suspected criminal’. It was like a TV game, just with real people.”
While he made his time at Cyclops as interesting as he could, he was happy to be moved back to crime prevention – to the streets – where he felt he belonged. He was promoted to an operations commander and took care of the shift workers.
“In crime prevention, we focus on priority crime – right now, that’s the robberies and theft out of motor vehicles, and drug-related crime. Our crime prevention officers are split into two groups who work four-day rotations on the shifts.”
He said the crime prevention unit focused largely on priority crime according to weekly patterns.
“There are so many things that influence the patterns – it could be the time of year or the weather. It could move according to hotspots. Our transport hubs and club strips get a lot of attention because of robberies, theft and pickpocketing, and we do lots of observations in those areas.”
Skollie also works in undercover operations and is a trained designated liquor officer, and often does liquor checks and operations at clubs at night.
“I often just float in, monitor the place for a little bit, quietly check the compliance with the manager then leave. If patrons see officers in uniform enter the club, they often feel uneasy or disturbed, so I try to be as discreet as I can. This way, you build a relationship with the club and pub owners, and they start assisting you with information.”
This, he says, is the basis of community policing – “to build trusting relationships”.
“I’ve been a warrant officer for 25 years, and I’m still on the beat. I go out with my teams – you’ll find me running after suspects and at car chases.”
He said his new venture would probably require him to do more administration and spend less time on the beat. However, he welcomes the new challenge and hopes that it won’t take him off the streets completely.
Skollie is also a professional boxer, and started an after-hours boxing club in Factreton in 1996, to draw underprivileged children away from gangsterism and making ill-decisions.
The boxing club closed in 2007 after the place was robbed and set alight, and he had to close it down due to budget constraints.
Skollie featured in renowned investigative journalist Ross Kemp’s book called Gangs,
and also had a feel-good story about the boxing club written by Kemp.
“There are certain things one cannot do without passion – one is sport, and the other is my job.”