The police were not only "outnumbered" on the night of the riot, but they also lacked numbers in general.
There is one police officer for every 614 persons in Singapore. By comparison, Hong Kong has one police officer for every 252 persons, said Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee in his testimony.
Commissioner Ng, Deputy Commissioner of Police T. Raja Kumar
KEY POINT: MORE OFFICERS NEEDED
Several witnesses, including Little India residents and members of the public, testified that they usually saw auxiliary police officers instead of the regular police patrolling the area.
Bus timekeeper Wong Geck Woon said she observed only a few police officers in their patrol vehicles but none on foot. Said Mr Ng: "There is some truth in the common refrain that one hardly comes across police officers on the streets of Singapore."
He made a plea to the Committee for 1,000 more police officers.
An additional 100 to 150 police officers are needed for there to be an effective police presence in hot spots like Little India, but "these are numbers that we do not have at present," he said.
Besides questioning the response time of the anti-riot police units under the Special Operations Command (SOC), the Committee was concerned that SOC was considered a scarce resource.
In his testimony, Mr Raja Kumar informed the Committee: "Over the years, the size of SOC has come down in terms of numbers. At its peak, the SOC consisted of 12 troops. There are eight troops now."
The number of people in a troop has also dropped from 63 to 35 men, he said.
Mr Ng said this was because the police needed to fund other initiatives in 2004, including counter-terrorism measures following the 9/11 attacks.
"We frequently have to rob Peter to pay Paul," he said.
"Singapore, being a rich country, is a prime trophy target for terrorists. We don't know where they are hiding or where they will target. If we do not have a dependable resource (like the SOC), we are in trouble. This is what I am worried about," said committee chairman G. Pannir Selvam.
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