The new national police commissioner, Gen Khehla Sitole, is a man with big plans for the SA Police Service and the country.

He wants to restore the authority of the state which, he says, has been undermined by criminal elements.

"The aim [of criminals] is to undermine policing in the country, therefore suggesting that the authority of the state is not taken seriously," he told the Financial Mail this week.

Sitole has served in the SA Police Service for 31 years after beginning his career as a student constable during the apartheid era.

He is the first career policeman to permanently head the police service since George Fivaz was appointed by Nelson Mandela in 1995. Jackie Selebi, Bheki Cele and Riah Phiyega, the other commissioners, were political appointments.

Sitole says he started working on a turnaround plan for the police as soon as he was informed of his appointment.

He has the enormous task of restoring confidence to the police service, which has lost its edge and public trust as crime and rampant corruption appear to thrive unchecked.

He has a two-tier approach: quick wins and a medium to long-term approach, which he will style on the objectives in the National Development Plan.

He aims to link this to the National Crime Combating Strategy and the National Crime Prevention Strategy.

At the time of his promotion to the top job, Sitole was working as a divisional commissioner for protection and security services. While he has yet to prove he is untainted by political scandals, he has already won the favour of security experts and trade unions which have long called for a career policeman to be named as national commissioner.

He appears unfazed by scepticism expressed by some, stemming from the track records of his predecessors.

"I have walked a journey in this organisation, with integrity, zest, determination and commitment to the cause of ensuring that people in this country are and feel safe," he says. "I am not bothered about aspersions because wherever I have been I committed to leave an indelible mark," he says. This includes taking the Free State province from number nine to number one in terms of performance and crime reduction, he adds.

President Jacob Zuma praised Sitole’s "wealth" of experience, operationally and managerially.

Sitole has previously served as an assistant commissioner in his home province, Mpumalanga. He says his experience has secured him a warm reception from his colleagues. He has already put a plan in place to address vacancies (a burning issue).

Last month, the Police & Prisons Civil Rights Union complained that the lack of a permanent police head and unfilled key posts had dampened morale.

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