Kovan murders: Keeping up confidence in police

SINGAPORE - While all murders are shocking, there is a double shock when the accused is a policeman, the second shock being born of disbelief.

The intensity of the sentiment is revealing because it attests to the high standards expected of Singapore's police force.

Given the clean record of cops here, none would have expected a suspect from within the force to be charged with the gruesome double murder of a father and a son in Kovan.

The case would hardly have been as disturbing in countries where policemen routinely commit atrocities, acting either on their own or at the behest of political higher-ups.

Singapore being known as a country where the rule of law applies as stringently to upholders of the law, a single aberration (even if not yet proven) has been sufficient to create concern.

However, the case needs to be kept in perspective. Police suspects are rare here.

In this instance, the policeman had been removed from investigative duties earlier because he had failed to declare his personal debt. He was moved to administrative work and barred from carrying firearms.

Then, the speed and efficiency with which the police chased down the suspect, with the cooperation of their counterparts across the Causeway, attest to their determination to bring the alleged perpetrator of the crime to justice.

There was no question of shielding him because he was one of their own. Instead, he will be prosecuted with the full force of the law.

Hearse leaves wake; wife of elderly victim leaves distraught
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: ST, TNP, Shin Min, Video screengrabs)
Funeral of victims of Kovan murders
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: ST, TNP, Shin Min)

Still, inevitably, the confidence of some in the police may be shaken. Hence the importance of underscoring the fact that this is an isolated case with a set of personal circumstances that might well be unique.

At a deeper level, the trial may yet show that the suspect's identity as an alleged killer and his occupation as a policeman are distinct if the latter did not influence the former.

So, it's best not to prejudge this matter.

Whatever the outcome, the links between a suspect and the victims cannot be the basis on which to judge the integrity of an entire institution whose officers place themselves at the vanguard of the daily, and often dangerous, struggle to keep Singapore safe for all its residents.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean and Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee alluded to these wider issues in their comments on the case.

By acknowledging public reaction to the case, offering their condolences to the family of the victims, and yet counselling a rational response to the case, they have put the authority of the state behind a reiteration of the role of the police as a protector of the people.

As the processes of justice take their course, the message of this tragedy is that the rule of law prevails here and the police can be counted upon to enforce it unswervingly.

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