Cop angry when he sees burning police car

SINGAPORE - He was part of a police line at Hampshire Road when he saw a group of 10 rioters flipping a police car onto its side.

One of the men then threw a piece of cloth into the car, along with something else that Staff Sergeant Azmi Mohamed Hamzah could not see. The car started burning.

"I saw (the burning car) and I got angry," he told the Committee of Inquiry on day six of the hearings.

SSgt Azmi took a few steps forward to confront the rioters but was stopped by his commander, who tapped him on the back.

His commander was worried that the rioters might get agitated or that the mob would attack SSgt Azmi had he gone closer.

Instead, he was told to hold the line to contain the mob and wait for the arrival of the Special Operations Command (SOC), which was trained and equipped to handle rioters.

Asked if he was shaken by the crowd, the police officer of 11 years said: "Honestly, I was scared. It didn't look like Singapore...

"But I got agitated when I saw them burning (the) vehicle."

SSgt Azmi belongs to a group of police officers trained in riot control as part of the Division Tactical Team (DTT).

But on the night of the riot on Dec 8 last year, he was not equipped with riot gear such as protective padding, helmets and the same batons used by the SOC.

Furthermore, his fellow first-responders did not have similar DTT training.

So SSgt Azmi joined a team of officers who formed a shield barrier to protect the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers, as they worked to extricate the body of accident victim Sakthivel Kumaravelu from under a wheel of the bus.

They later went on to shield the officers who were escorting timekeeper Wong Geck Woon and bus driver Lee Kim Huat to a waiting ambulance.

Earlier in the day, national serviceman Arshard Abdul Murad also testified before the committee.

He was part of the first few police back-up teams to arrive at the scene.

As he and some others tried to keep the crowd back from the bus, an Indian national challenged him to hit the crowd with his baton.

He wanted to be hit

When questioned by State Counsel Joshua Lim, Corporal Arshard said the man seemed angry and was in fact asking to be hit.

"It was my duty to ask (the crowd) to move back," he said, adding that the T-baton carried by police officers as standard issue is meant to be used as a defensive weapon.

Others who took the stand on Wednesday included officers manning the various police operations rooms and other back-up police officers who went to the scene.

lawsm@sph.com.sg

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