We need another 1,000 police officers?
The Commissioner of Police (CP) Ng Joo Hee has made some very interesting comments at the on going Commission of Inquiry (COI). “1,000 more officers are needed to boost the force.” He also touches on the “power keg” Geylang. There are far too many implications from the two comments. As responsible citizens, we ought to be concerned.
When CP says that we need an extra of 1,000 police officers to boost the police force, I wonder what sort of police officers he is referring to? Definitely not those auxiliary police officers outsourced to desperate cheap labourers from neighboring countries when they simply came here for the better wages and using the law as a pretext in its high handed approach to tekan locals. 1,000 new recruits in the Special Ops Command (SOC) or in the Land Divisions or simply just manning those police posts in HDB estates? What sort of extra 1,000 police officers? All with diplomas or university degrees and wearing the Sgt rank on the first day of police work? Veterans always opined that ranks have to be earned the hard way and never given freely losing its intrinsic value.
I still remember vividly what one Chinese gangster used to tell me years ago. According to him, there are 3 types of police officers in our SPF. The NS senior officers, “study” or scholar senior officers and the hardened rank and file senior officers. He feared the last category. He was not afraid of the first two types where according to him he could easily put them in his pocket! This is uniquely Singapore.
What sort of 1,000 extra police officers do we need? Paper pushers or those who could perform on their jobs? In short, it is the quality and not the quantity that counts. In his own admission, CP says, “Over the years, we have strived to keep our force small, while constantly creating new capabilities through deploying better technology, outsourcing and by co-creating with the community. Even though, we frequently rob Peter to pay Paul, as was the case when we kept reducing the size of our anti-riot troopers to fund other capabilities.” I read it with a tinge of sadness and dismay.
Knowing that we have got more than 2 million foreigners here, yet they have reduced the size of anti-riot troopers instead of expanding them? Prior to the Little India riot, one could observe the huge mass of humanity moving in countless waves in Little India – not to mention the Geylang or Beach Road Golden Mile areas where foreigners congregate during the weekends to while away their time. Common sense tells us that if there is trouble, it could be very ugly. Until that Little India incident with all revelations coming out in the open, then only the focus is shifted to this time bomb. CP seems to say that the Little India riot is not as serious as the powder keg explosive in Geylang. Is he seizing this opportunity to highlight the manpower issue he’s facing so that he could have more budget for more men to handle public order maintenance?
The next question to ask is whether we need an extra 1,000 troopers or street walking police officers? Who is performing the actual police job? The blue knight walking the beats or those highly paid police scholars sitting in their ivory towers putting up more power points slide presentations to impress the gods? That is the question.
When I joined the police force in 1983 with full A level qualification, I had to start off as a police constable. After 7 years, I got my corporal rank. Another 3 years of hell in investigation before I was given the Sgt rank. Today, the ranks are given freely as if it’s lelong sale in a pasar malam. When I had my recent encounter with the young police Sgt and a corporal, I had a hard time telling them that I could write a better statement rather than him recording my statement. But they refused and accused me of interfering in their police investigation! What a langgar situation. My respect for those newly minted police officers is lost. Not sure and lacking in confidence in their job area. Didn’t ask penetrating questions. Just treated it another case to be filed away. Are we paying top dollar for such officer without any sense of passion in their job?
Like what CP says, he is more worried about our red light district in Geylang rather than the 500 over rioters in Little India. Cities all over the world do have their own versions of Geylang. In fact, they are even notorious than our Geylang. Remember, they carry firearms and consumed all kinds of drugs like nobody’s business! They can’t simply ban alcohol the very next day like we did! link and link Could those police officers with easily acquired ranks handle another riot in Geylang? If it ever happened in Geylang, it’s not going to be Indians only. Lots of locals and many other nationalities hang around there. The lure of the nectar coated hidden valley is simply irresistible. Look at the Little India riot, every police officer was waiting for instruction to act despite the fact there there was total loss of communication according to what is revealed. The walkie talkies were not functioning yet they were still waiting for further instructions. If everything is based on instructions from the top and higher ups, do we need very educated police officers with ranks to do a simple ground job of containing a riot situation? SOPs are clearly spelt for necessary action for that sort of scenario yet everybody waiting for somebody until nobody is doing anything at all.
Next, to outsource so many police functions to auxiliary police is a disaster. It is only a matter of time before another time bomb explodes. Those auxiliary police officers from neighboring countries are here to make a living. They are not here to serve with altruistic ideals or out of patriotism! As it is, it’s already happening at our Causeway Checkpoint with so many cases of slipping through the security barriers and officers right in front of their noses. Remember that guy who just walked across and subsequently came back to surrender where he was hang for murdering a small girl? What about our most wanted lipping terrorist able to just swim across the waterway divide? Invested so much money on the barriers but they did not work when needed? Failing to stop breeches of security as in the case of the mentally impaired lady driving her car into our country. Do I need to quote some more to prove my point? Yes, our borders and some vital installations are outsourced to auxiliary police officers to the detriment of our national security.
When the traffic offenses such as illegal parking are outsourced to them, they really use the powers given to them to the maximum terrorizing all those locals living in the neighborhoods. When I was visiting complaint file of illegal parking especially in front of coffee-shops, we switched on the blinkers to warn illegal parking motorists to move away their vehicles. Sometimes, we even used the siren to show them our presence. We used scare crow methods to chase them away. Until no choice, then only enforcement action against illegal parking is taken. Cuz as locals, we empathize with those motorists. Do those LTA enforcement officers or auxiliary officers ever give you any chance at all? I’m sure many readers got their horror stories to tell of their highhandedness and merrily issuing summons or snapping pictures of your vehicles like no tomorrow?
According to my experience, not many could become police officers. Stringent screening need to be done before he’s recruited. I still remember how as recruits, we were really treated like “dogs” in Police Academy. We were screamed at for the slightest mistakes and abused verbally for not able to march with perfection by our kwalan Drill Instructors ( they did not have any rank. Only police constable or PC). This is to train us to meet the ever demanding public after passing out as qualified police officers to perform our duty. Be prepared to be abused and shouted at by the public when you put on the blue uniform. When I was a new I.O., I was also made to type a simple memo more than 10 times all over and all over again by my C.I.O. (Chief Investigation Officer) after my 24 hour tour of duty just to get it perfect. In those days, there was no computer. We used a manual type writer which I still remember is the Adler brand supplied by the force. Only those stay behind and take the whatever shit thrown at them will emerge with a much stronger tenacious character. Today, my peers in that era have progressed to hold many senior positions within the force.
I strongly feel that there is a need to re-look at the entire police organization. There is a need to commission a task force to study and really examine into the force structure and its organization. The little India incident has blatantly demonstrated our current state of police force. Do we still ignore all those symptoms and allow them to fester? To just ignore those weaknesses will lead to even more powder kegs exploding in the near future. The force itself is a huge time bomb waiting only to explode if we do not take drastic decisive measures now. Expand the anti-riot troopers with better equipment and more focus training without the need for higher paper qualifications is the first step towards a more professional resilient force.