Elite police unit to get more muscle
THE front-line unit of the Singapore Police Force that deals with cases of serious public disorder will double in size with the addition of 300 officers over two to three years.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced the beefing up of the Special Operations Command (SOC) in Parliament yesterday. The move came in a quick response to the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) that looked into the Little India riot.
In its report released last week, the COI, led by former Supreme Court judge G. Pannir Selvam, had proposed that SOC's manpower be increased.
Taking that recommendation on board, the Government will increase the number of the elite unit's troops from eight to 12.
Each troop will also be beefed up from the current 35 men to 44 men.
This means one more troop will be added to the two that currently stay on round-the-clock standby duty. The additional troop will be more mobile and faster, DPM Teo said.
While accepting all of the COI's recommendations, DPM Teo, who is also the Minister for Home Affairs, staunchly defended the actions of officers on the night of the riot on Dec 8.
The COI had criticised ground commander Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lu Yeow Lim's decision not to arrest anyone when rioters were overturning vehicles and setting them on fire.
"It is not always possible to take the analyses done after the fact, and substitute them for the judgment that the commanders and officers had to make on the ground that night," said DPM Teo.
In response to MP Vikram Nair's question on his view of the COI's criticism of the ground commander's actions, Mr Teo said: "We will not be able to definitely know what might have happened if a different course of action had been taken. We can't be sure that it would definitely be better."
He added that officers and commanders did not have the benefit of hindsight.
The COI had also suggested that the police improve their communications.
DPM Teo said that a new combined operations room will be ready at the end of this year.
The room will be equipped to track the deployment of the police, and improve awareness of ground situations.
The police are also studying how they can make use of publicly posted messages and images on the Internet or social media.
By the end of this year, the front-line police can expect to be able to tap on advanced communications, imaging and mobile computing technology through mobile devices.
The COI had pointed out that jammed radio sets meant that officers could not hear each other that night.
DPM Teo said that additional networks will be made available for major incidents.
The COI had also recommended more lighting, security and safety measures in foreign-worker congregation areas.
In response, DPM Teo said that Geylang will be provided with more cameras, stricter enforcement, and more lighting in 36 back alleys.