COI: Voice that matters must reach all officers

COI: Voice that matters must reach all officers

SINGAPORE - Following its detailed examination of the Little India riot, a Committee of Inquiry (COI) has recommended that police improve their communications, command and control capabilities.

For example, for major operations, the top officer on the ground - the Incident Manager - should be able to effect a "talk through" so that the orders he issues can be heard by all officers above all other messages.

The four-man panel, led by former Supreme Court judge G. Pannir Selvam, also said that control rooms which paint an overall picture for the senior leadership need to have better technology to see what is happening on the ground.

Their information should include any available video feeds, from the area and officers' gadgets. The centres should also monitor social media and use photographs and videos when there is a lack of official data.

Front-line officers should also be trained to effectively defuse and contain large-scale public-order incidents, because they "may not always be able to afford to wait for the Special Operations Command (SOC) to arrive when public-order incidents break out," the COI said.

It also said that protective gear should be extended to officers in non-combat roles.

It added that there was a need for "suitable mass-communication devices" for front-line officers.

Officers were not able to communicate with the crowd till the SOC arrived with their vehicles, which are mounted with public-announcement systems.

It also suggested tougher enforcement against public drunkenness. This should take place especially at hot spots, where large crowds indulge in heavy drinking, where a triggering event could spark a breakdown of public order.

The COI pointed out Geylang as an example.

It also recommended that the police look into generally cutting the time taken to activate response teams. The police have taken steps to effect this.

The COI heard evidence from 93 witnesses over the course of 24 days of public hearings, which ended on March 26.

Other recommendations included beefing up manpower, improving Home Team coordination and making areas where many foreign workers congregate safer.

While ruling out foreign workers' employment and living conditions as causes of the riot, the COI acknowledged that more can be done.

It highlighted high foreign employment agency fees, education on employment processes, sensitivity when dealing with foreign workers, engagement with these workers and improvements to accommodation as areas that can be improved.

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