Police apologise for not handling call better

SINGAPORE - When a drunk man tried to force his way into Ms Jaclyn Teo's car in the wee hours of Sunday morning, she locked herself in and called 999.

But instead of getting help, Ms Teo ended up with an apology a few days later, as police admitted they could have handled her call better.

Ms Teo, who told The Straits Times she still feels traumatised, had gone to Upper Thomson at around 2am on Sunday with her husband to get supper for her ailing father.

After parking outside a convenience store, her husband alighted and left the doors unlocked, according to Chinese newspaper Shin Min.

Suddenly, a man who seemed drunk opened a door and started spewing vulgarities and gesturing angrily.

Feeling threatened, Ms Teo, a volunteer at a non-profit organisation that helps needy single mothers, slammed the door shut and called the police. She gave her account of what followed next on her Facebook page.

"Please help me. I am very scared. I am now alone inside the car and I am very sure I can't fight him!" she allegedly said over the phone.

"But Madam, I cannot help you if you cannot help me," came the reply, according to Ms Teo.

"Officer, this is Upper Thomson, I see Prata House Restaurant and I can see a road sign by the left that reads Jalan Ikan Merah," she answered.

"Which part of Thomson? You must help me before I can help you!"

Taking umbrage at what she thought was the operator's impatience, Ms Teo ended the call. When her husband returned, the drunk man started scolding him, but a few passers-by helped calm the situation. The couple then left.

An hour later, Ms Teo posted on her Facebook page a lengthy account of what happened, accompanied by a video she took of her husband confronting the man.

As of last thursday, her post had attracted over 2,000 likes and 2,700 shares. Some reacted with sympathy, while others said she should not have assumed the police could pinpoint her location by tracking her phone.

In a statement on Wednesday, the police said that officers went down to where Ms Teo had been 15 minutes after her call at 2.09am, but neither she nor the man who had allegedly harassed her were there.

They also said the police operator had "acted correctly by attempting to narrow down the caller's location".

But the way the operator, who has since been counselled, tried to pinpoint the location could be "improved" and the call "should have been handled more professionally", a spokesman said.

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