MHA to beef up police anti-riot force

MHA to beef up police anti-riot force
Police checking on workers after the riot was contained at about 11.30pm on 8 December 2013. At least four police patrol cars were overturned by the mob. An ambulance and two patrol cars were also set on fire and dozens of Home Team officers were injured.

ALL eight recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot to minimise the likelihood of similar incidents in the future have been accepted by the Government, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament yesterday.

Certain measures such as beefing up police presence in the popular ethnic enclave and a faster way of activating anti-riot troops in a large public order incident, are already in place, he added.

Other recommendations to strengthen the Home Team and improve the management of congregation areas, are being studied and will soon be implemented.

DPM Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister, was setting out the ministry's response to the COI report in detail for the first time since it was released last week.

He said the inquiry's analysis of the riot will be useful for the police as the force reviews its doctrines and procedures for public order incidents. The findings would also help hone the incident management skills of officers and commanders who "did the best they could in the circumstances they faced, with the information they had" on Dec 8, he added.

"Although there was destruction and damage to emergency vehicles, the riot was fully brought under control within two hours of the initial accident, contained within the immediate location, without loss of life or serious injury, and without the use of lethal force including firearms," said DPM Teo. "The area was reopened to people and traffic by early next morning."

The COI's recommendations, he added, address weaknesses and areas his ministry has "to improve on, provide validation of several of our ongoing plans which address the COI's concerns, sharpen our focus on what the priorities should be, and provide impetus for us to do more in certain areas and to implement them sooner".

A key plank of the MHA's plans in the wake of the most serious public order incident here in 40 years, is to add 300 more officers to the police anti-riot force. This would double the strength of units in the Special Operations Command. Others include installing more closed-circuit television cameras and adding boots on the ground in hot spots like Little India.

"A riot on the streets of Singapore is unacceptable We have to take preventive action to minimise the likelihood of such a riot occurring, and improve our capability to deal effectively with a riot if one does occur," said DPM Teo. "Anyone who takes part in a riot must know that he will be dealt with firmly in accordance with our laws."

Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua, who oversees part of Little India, was one of several MPs who commended the Home Team in Parliament yesterday.

"I just want to officially thank and salute the Home Team for its contribution, including the ground commander from Tanglin (Police Division) who I believe has done what he could in the heat of action and without the benefit of hindsight."


Strengthening the Home Team

ANTI-RIOT teams in the Special Operations Command (SOC) will be beefed up by 300 more police officers over the next two to three years.

- Police land division commanders are now able to activate the SOC directly, instead of having to seek the approval of the director of operations to do so.

- By the end of this year, the police will have a new command, control and communications system to provide better situational awareness, and a new combined operations room to improve incident management.

- All police fast response cars will be equipped with cameras by the end of next year. A trial of mounting cameras on police vehicles and officers using body-worn cameras is under way.

- Since the Dec 8 riot, the number of police CCTV cameras in Little India has more than doubled to 250, with 88 more set to be added by December next year. The police will install 252 more cameras in Geylang, another hot spot, by the end of 2016.

- Lessons learnt during the Dec 8 riot will be included in the review of training for front-line officers and how they are equipped.


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