President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday urged police station commanders to speak up about the problems they face in the war against South Africa's rocketing crime rate.
"You must not fear," Zuma said at an unprecedented meeting with 1 000 station commanders in Pretoria.
"We expect an open and frank discussion. Everyone here has a right to... speak, and if we don't do so, we will not be helping the work before us as the police force."
Zuma was speaking at the Voortrekker Monument to loud applause from hundreds of policemen and women dressed in uniform.
The president said he believed it was important to meet the police officials who dealt with the public on a daily basis.
"The local police station is the everyday face of the police service among our people. People's perceptions of how good or how bad the police are, are based largely on interactions that occur at the local police station."
Crime statistics remained "harsh", he said, reaffirming the government's commitment to bring down crime rates.
Hundreds of policemen and women rose to salute him upon his arrival. Clad in navy and pale blue, those tasked with upholding law and order in South Africa stood solemnly as a brass band played the national anthem.
On stage with Zuma sat Ministers in the Presidency Trevor Manuel and Collins Chabane as well as Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
The meeting comes a week after the annual release of crime statistics painted a grim picture.
The latest crime statistics showed that about 50 people were murdered in South Africa a day, while business robberies increased by 41,5% and house robberies by 27,3%.
Zuma will discuss with the police "how to take forward the fight against crime".
"The meeting forms part of President's Zuma intention to meet with public servants who are in the coalface of service delivery, to ensure that they understand government objectives from the highest office," his office said.
All nine provincial premiers and the MECs responsible for community safety were scheduled to attend the event.
The nine premiers are: Nomvula Mokonyane (Gauteng), Ace Magashule (Free State), Zweli Mkhize (KwaZulu-Natal), Cassel Mathale (Limpopo), Noxolo Kiviet (Eastern Cape), David Mabuza (Mpumalanga), Maureen Modiselle (North West), Hazel Jenkins (Northern Cape) and Helen Zille (Western Cape).
The MECs are: Ratshivhanda Samson Ndou (Limpopo), Khabisi Mosunkutu (Gauteng), Ghishma Barry (Eastern Cape), TM Manyoni (Free State), Thembinkosi Willies Mchunu (KwaZulu-Natal), Sibongile Manana (Mpumalanga), Haward Yawa (North West), Patrick Mabilo (Northern Cape) and Lennit Max (Western Cape).