Speaking to a former police sergeant, who wishes to remain anonymous for his own protection.
Commenting on the recent shooting at Khoo Teck Puat hospital, he said that its very rare that a policeman’s gun can be snatched because of the safety mechanisms put in place.
“This is credit to the Singapore Police Force. The gun holsters have what’s known as a ‘double-lock’ system. If you look at the holster, there’s a safety catch (circled in red here) that needs to firstly be unlocked, then pushed forward. The gun can only be drawn upwards, so if you’re trying to prise it away from an officer, you can’t just pull at it. Officers are trained to release their guns quickly, and its not something that anybody can just do on the spur of the moment. That whole mechanism was put in place for our safety, because the police force wants to prevent out guns from being snatched. We were also trained on the proper steps to take when someone is trying to take our revolver.”
As for reports that the policeman’s baton was first snatched and used to beat the policeman before his revolver was taken, the former policeman said:
“The snatching of the T-Baton is possible, and its happened before. Unlike the gun holster, the T-Baton holster is meant for quick release. You can remove it from the holster with a quick and strong tug. That’s meant for quick-draw during emergencies, like riots that break out all of a sudden, or when a person is behaving violently, but his actions do not warrant the use of your firearm.”
However, this former policeman says the KTPH snatch-and-shoot incident possibly happened because of lax behaviour on the part of the two policeman involved – the injured policeman, and his partner.
“You can’t blame the Singapore Police Force for this. We’re taught proper methods to escort a subject. There’s two ways. One, the subject is handcuffed and the officer will hold him from behind by the arm, and the handcuffs. If the subject is not handcuffed, he or she is always made to stand on the left side of the officer, even when seated in the police car, so that the subject cannot snatch your revolver.”
“That is probably how the subject managed to snatch the officer’s T-Baton, which is on the left side of the officer’s belt for right-handed officers. The protocol, however, is for one officer to hold the subject, while his partner stands a short distance away from them, so that he can react in the event of any emergency. In this case, if the partner had been around, he would have been able to subdue the subject straight away. If there was anything to see to, it’s my opinion that the subject should be led out by both officers rather than being left alone with just one without any supervision by a partner officer.”
But how can it be that one policeman cannot be trusted to handle a subject? What if there is a situation whereby both partners need to be separated?
“Look, if you are made to detain and escort a subject, that means he’s under arrest. You can’t just anyhow take people off the street and make them come with you for no reason. Unless, say, you’re escorting a witness who’s not accused of any crime. If you have detained someone, the proper way to do it is to handcuff him, hands behind the back. That’s the proper way to restrain a subject. There’s no such thing as ‘this fella is ok, so don’t need to be so hard on him’. You do your job and protect yourself because you never know what can happen. Subjects have turned violent in the past, even when restrained.”
This former law enforcer believes that the Singapore Police Force can do more to remind officers of proper procedures to follow:
“There’s many refresher courses for officers, as it is now. Maybe the police force can hold more training sessions and relate more real-life encounters as case-studies for officers to hit home the message that they must follow the right procedures, and safety of yourself, the public, and the subject is very important.”
“Of course I’m not happy to hear that an officer has been shot. But if you ask me, I can’t see how anyone can blame the police force for this incident. Sometimes, things happen. Until a full report is out, there’s no knowing what happened in that room. But I think that officers should have practised better handling of this incident. Even if it wasn’t a shooting, if the subject were to escape from custody, the safety of members of the public could have been compromised.”