When Chris “Toitjie” Du Toit’s policeman father saw his son at the Mitchell’s Plain police station, his first thought was that the boy had landed in trouble… and, in a way, he had.
Du Toit junior had joined the police without telling his father.
Since that day in 1983, Warrant Officer Du Toit has found his fair share of trouble, but in an interview with the Echo a week after his retirement send-off at The Galley, in Fish Hoek, on Friday August 5, he said he didn’t want to focus on the bad and was just grateful to be alive and to have had a career he loved.
But he admitted there was one moment during his police career, about eight or nine years ago, that he won’t soon forget. One evening, the police had been expecting robbers to hit a Longbeach Mall jewellery store, and Warrant Officer Du Toit was patrolling Main Road.
A call came over the radio: the men had robbed the store and were speeding along Kommetjie Road. “I was alone in a Corsa bakkie, and I knew I had to block off the road so I parked across the road in front of the police station. I could see them coming, and I knew they wouldn’t stop.”
They flew past him, and as they hit Clovelly corner, they crashed and rolled the bakkie.
“There were about nine guys in the bakkie. They were spread all over the road, and there was jewellery all over.”
Those that were not injured ran away, but most were later arrested.
“Thinking back,” said Warrant Officer Du Toit, “things could have gone so wrong. I was alone with nine suspects shortly after their bakkie rolled. I didn’t know if they were armed and how they would react when cornered.”
Moments later a large police contingent arrived and started searching for the men who had run away and arrested the injured.
It’s been 37 years since Warrant Officer Du Toit joined the police as a student constable, but something his father, John du Toit, then a captain at the Mitchell’s Plain police station, said to him during his early days in the force has stuck with him all this time. His father had given him a scolding after seeing him on foot patrol in Mitchell’s Plain’s Town Centre.
“What did I do wrong?” Du Toit junior asked.
“A policeman never walks; he strides,” his father told him.
And doing what you do with pride is the maxim Warrant Officer Du Toit has tried to follow throughout his career, according to those who have worked with him.
He was transferred to the Fish Hoek station in January 1990 where he worked shifts until 2007, when he was responsible for readying officers for their firearm competency at Faure SAPS training centre and the Philippi College for two years.
From there, he moved to manage the Fish Hoek police station’s vehicle fleet. Later, as crime-prevention supervisor, he set up operations with neighbourhood watches and started a database of criminals in Fish Hoek.
“I’m going to miss the people I work with and the members of the community who were very good to me. I’ve made some wonderful friends here,” he said.
He had taken early retirement, he said, after developing osteoarthritis in his back, and he hadn’t seen any promotion opportunities in the next two years should he have stayed.
Former colleagues and members of the community praised him for his hard work and dedication during his farewell function.
Fish Hoek Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman Andre Blom thanked him for his excellent service, dedication and loyalty.
Fish Hoek police station commander Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Johnson said she was proud to be his colleague and that he had served his community well.
“He has run the race and kept the faith. We lose a good man today,” she said.
Mayoral committee member for Transport, Felicity Purchase said Fish Hoek police station had always been a station with “quality police officers” and she thanked Warrant Officer Du Toit for his dedicated service.
“There will always be space for you in the community when you get bored,” she said.
Warrant Officer Du Toit said he was looking forward to his retirement and would spend time gardening, drawing and making music.