Crack troops always at the ready

Crack troops always at the ready
Troopers from the anti-riot Police Tactical Unit running through a wall of fire created by petrol bombs during fire confidence training. While a minimum level of physical fitness is required, the SOC has a "comprehensive training regime" to help officers meet the requirements, says AC Anthony Ng, the unit's chief.

Flipping a 100kg tyre and bearing 40kg of water for two minutes are just two of the numerous gruelling exercises that troopers in the Special Operations Command (SOC) must go through.

But while the job of a trooper is demanding, the SOC - more commonly known as the anti-riot police - wants to debunk the notion that only those who are physically fit will be able to join its ranks.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ng, 47, who leads the elite police unit, said the SOC looks out for applicants with a positive attitude, resilience, a willingness to learn and determination.

Giving his first media interview since he took on the role in 2011, AC Ng noted: "One major challenge that we have is the perception that only those who are physically fit will be able to join SOC."

While a minimum level of fitness is required, he said the SOC has a "comprehensive training regime" to help officers meet the requirements.

The SOC was thrown into the spotlight after the Dec 8 Little India riot. The worst public disorder incident in four decades, the riot left 54 officers and other first responders injured and raised questions about the adequacy of the police response.

After a Committee of Inquiry on the riot, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament in July that the SOC will get 300 more officers to strengthen its ability to deal with large-scale public order incidents.

Formed as a single riot squad in 1952 after the Maria Hertogh riot, the SOC now comprises three primary units - the Police Tactical Unit (PTU), the Police K-9 Unit, and the Special Tactics and Rescue Unit.

The anti-riot PTU currently has eight troops of 35 men each.

AC Ng, who joined the police in 1992 and served as deputy director of operations from 2008 to 2011, said his top priority is to recruit enough officers over the next three years to respond faster to incidents.

The 300 more officers will double the SOC's current strength of deployable front-line troopers.

They will also be better armed to deal with a wider range of situations and crowd size. Both troop size and the number of troops for round-the-clock standby duty will be increased too.

Having more troopers on the ground will mean higher visibility, which deters crime.

AC Ng added that the changes will help the SOC perform its duties more effectively and efficiently while maintaining a high standard of safety for officers and the public.

And in the midst of the expansion and enhancement efforts, AC Ng stressed the SOC will continue to be operationally ready at all times.

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