Promotion brings new challenges for officer

Captain Keith Chandler in his office at Diep River police station.

After 30 years, Keith Chandler’s contribution to protecting and serving the community has been recognised.

At 11am on November 1 he heard that he had not only been given a promotion, from warrant officer to captain, but also a new position. From November 21 he will take over the reins as station commander at Camps Bay police station.

Since his wife Adriana broke the news, dozens of people have been congratulating him and saying how he will be missed and that the promotion is well deserved.

She wrote on Facebook: “I am WAAAAYYYYY too excited and proud to keep this a secret any longer. My amazing husband”

Speaking to him last Friday at his corner office at Diep River police station, his excitement bubbled over as he spoke of his past, his dreams and his future. Quietly spoken, Captain Chandler is surely an example of his profession and yet he’s also a force to be reckoned with.

As a child growing up in Plumstead, he attended John Graham Primary and then Plumstead High.

His first vocation choice was that of a Roman Catholic priest but this was not meant to be. Instead he applied to join the police force at Diep River.

He started the next day.

Since then he has moved around from Westbrook when PW Botha was the state president, to Soweto. Then back to Diep River in 1993 to join the Gang Unit. Three years later he joined the flying squad where he learnt advanced SWAT and driving skills. In 2006 he returned to Diep River where he has stayed until now, all the time taking whatever opportunities to advance his skills and knowledge.

Asked if the move to Camps Bay meant that he could sit with his feet on the desk and go swimming every day, he laughed.

Captain Chandler visited Camps Bay the previous day and says the station is in poor shape. He says crime in Camps Bay is very different to anywhere else.

“They have 90 to 110 crimes in winter but this triples during the summer season,” he said.

Other differences are that the Diep River precinct has a denser urban area, middle-class, a railway line and more property-related crimes with the odd violent crime. The area also has an industrial area, a large CBD and 115 second-hand dealers.

Camps Bay is more affluent, has no trains, low traffic flow, no second-hand dealers or antique shops but lots of B&Bs, hotels and multi-million rand homes, many for the rich and famous.

Asked about his highlights at Diep River, he said his legacy is that of the neighbourhood watches.

“Other police stations look at us as a flagship. It’s all about communication,” he said.

Captain Chandler was involved in the formation of two of the first in the greater Cape Town – Plumstead and Bergvliet Kreupelbosch Meadowridge (BKM) watches. And since 2007 when they held the first snake patrol, they continue every three months.

He explained that security providers, Law Enforcement, police and patrollers driving their own vehicles covered with decals, drive through the suburbs. From an 84-year-old to a youngster who has just got his driving licence.

“People are so tired of crime. “Each time it gets bigger, with 56 on the last. When we go out in force like this, we don’t get crime,” said Captain Chandler.

But many residents know him through his involvement in policing narcotics.

From undercover drug operations to talks in schools, neighbourhood watch meetings and shopping malls – he doesn’t tell them not to do drugs but shows them what happens if they do.

Among other memorable successes were “catching” two babies and working with volunteer reservists. “We have the best score in the Western Cape with 12 who worked 780 hours last month. They’re supposed to work 192,” he added.

Captain Chandler recruits and trains these reservists. And while he might be moving station, he will stay in Plumstead and continue to be part of its neighbourhood watch and report suspicious behaviour. “It (police force) is not a job, it’s a passion, a calling,” he smiled.

In his spare time, he coaches soccer at Tramways and goes to gym every morning and trail running at night.

He also enjoys collecting antiques, especially silver.