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This evening I called the Singapore police to report domestic violence that I had witnessed. The domestic violence included physical assault. I was horrified to find that the police officers refused to even talk to the perpetrator. They didn’t even ask him if he wanted to talk.

The victim was crying and explained to the police officers that she feared repercussions from her assailant if she allowed the police to talk to him. She was quite open to us and to the police about the harm he has routinely been inflicting on her. Although I’m not a lawyer, I feel confident to say that the things she mentioned included multiple clear and distinct types of crime.

The police officers told me that they should not do anything because they did not want to ‘harm’ the couple’s relationship. Sure, they made the excuse that they would also ask the investigator if they should proceed to talk to the guy; but they seemed in no hurry to do so and even proceeded to boast about their understanding of Singapore’s criminal code when I expressed my disbelief.

I always thought that one quintessential distinction between criminal and civil law was that for crimes the police can take action autonomously. I was surprised to hear the police officers say that in Singapore an exception to this principle is made for domestic abuse cases. Even so, I still don’t see how that prevented them from asking the assailant if he would be willing to discuss the situation. Shouldn’t police officers be trained to recognize when their restraint is counterproductive? And why were they not able to provide the victim a perspective on a way out?

The police officers snuck out of our building when another witness and I were discussing what to do.


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