Captain Keith Chandler has retired from the South African Police Service (SAPS) after 37 years of service and is looking forward to life without the badge.
Captain Chandler went to the Diep River police station the day he received his matric results and the 18-year old began his law enforcement career the next day.
“I went on my bicycle to the police station and said here’s my results and when do I start, they said tomorrow and put me on night shift, that was in December 1986,” Captain Chandler said.
“In January I went to the police training college in Pretoria for training and I was the fittest student and became a PTI (Physical Training Instructor). I was there for a few months but I wanted to get back to Cape Town and that was a bit difficult. I even joined the Western Cape police choir to find a way home but they realised after two weeks I can’t sing, I eventually got home after seven months,” he said.
After leaving the PTI, he worked for nine months in the presidential unit of then-President PW Botha before being relocated to Diep River.
“Diep River, I consider it my home police station, I went to Kirstenhof and then to the Gang Unit, then flying squad then Diep River, then at Wynberg mobile, then Diep River, I was with the flying squad for 10 years and after that I was transferred to Camps Bay.
“I’ve done everything from chopped drops, flying squad, tried my hand at being a detective and in my heart I will always be a cop, because I’m all about helping my fellow man and my mantra is do unto others what you want them to do to you,” he said.
He took over as station commander of the Camps Bay police in November 2016 and says he did not anticipate to handle so much paperwork.
“I have been planning my retirement since I’m 50 and I’ve been dabbling in the antique trade for over a decade. It started as a hobby where I was selling military memorabilia, medals and swords and so on. I’m into antique silver and I’ll be doing this properly,” he said.
“I’m also planning to do the Iron Man next year so now I will have time to train. As the station commander I just did not have the time to do all these things for myself so now I’m looking forward to do my own thing,” he said.
Captain Chandler says the Camps Bay precinct is Africa’s closest police station to the beach, and he will miss the community as well as the sights.
“We worked well with the residents here and they were supportive, we didn’t have to complicate our services with the red tape and we just worked well together. We have dedicated staff here and we have made it work for us and the residents. The late Alan Marsh was one of the people we worked closely with so he will be missed, ” he said.
He says that December through January are his station’s busiest months, and he hasn’t celebrated Christmas or New Year’s in seven years.
“From the 16th of December we work hard here, I recall 33 kids going missing on one day, it was a Boxing Day, and then we look after them, we have to find the parents, it’s a huge problem. So taking off over the festive season is not something we can do, it’s busy here and there are problems as you know this is a tourist destination so there’s plenty of people,” he said.
“We’ve had foreign kids here who can’t speak English and then there’s a barrier which makes it difficult, but we sort it out, we buy lots of chips. When it comes to serious crimes I think there’ve been five murders during my time here, but that’s not cases being opened. There’s also been drownings and bodies washing up on the beach, so we do get a lot of that, we have even found body parts and skulls,” he said.
As the chairman of the International Police Association, Captain Chandler receives a large number of police officers visiting their office as an international tourist destination.
“At this station it’s a lot of paperwork and I wasn’t expecting that as I was more of a hands on guy, you know kicking down doors and arresting people, but I’m looking forward to being off during this festive season, just relaxing,” he said.
“Cops come here to visit and they give us badges so this is an exchange as we have this respect for each other, it’s international camaraderie,” he said.
His wife Adriana is also a captain for SAPS, and Captain Chandler says they want to travel to London to watch Arsenal play this festive season.
“Because we are both cops we work well together and we understand what is required from us, so that’s been good for us and she will continue working while I stay at home. We enjoy going to the UK, it’s the home of football and I’ve watched five Arsenal games so I’m looking forward to doing that again. We have had lunch with Arsene Wenger on one of these trips so yes, I’m a big supporter of the Gunners,” he says.