Little India riot: Conscious decision not to use deadly force, says police

SINGAPORE - The police on Monday answered some key questions on how they handled the situation on Sunday.

•When did the mob become really angry?
It appears they got angry when the police resorted to using shields to protect themselves, said Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Lu Yeow Lim, Tanglin Division Commander. "That somehow angered them, we don't know why," he said.

•Why did the police respond in a non-violent way even if their lives were at stake?
The officers who arrived at the scene first were neighbourhood police officers armed with revolvers. There were people jeering, throwing stones at police, and overturning vehicles.

"Their standoff distance was 40 or 50 metres, revolvers are not designed for that," said DAC Lu. "You may end up shooting somebody who is just jeering."

The officers waited for specialist troops to arrive. "It was a conscious decision not to use deadly force because training and experience from overseas suggest that a baton and shield tactic would be sufficient," he said.

•Why did the police officers not use warning shots?
The workers appeared drunk and clearly violent, said the police. There was a chance that doing so would enrage them.

•Special Operations Command (SOC) took about 40 minutes to arrive. Why did they take so long?
SOC officers had in fact arrived at the outskirts of the riot area, but could not get in as the roads were congested with buses coming to fetch foreign workers back to their dormitories, said DAC Lu. The heavy gear they were armed with also "does not allow for sprinting", he said. "I would think the delay is about 15 minutes."

•How did police go about identifying and arresting the 27 individuals?
"Some of them were involved in hurling projectiles at us, so we were able to recognise them either through their attire or in some cases, because they still had weapons in their hands," DAC Lu said.

•Could more have been done to quell the violence earlier?
Police officers were initially responding to a traffic accident, but the situation progressively grew worse.

It takes time for the SOC officers to arrive, and they had to enter the area on foot.

•Why have only 27 suspects been arrested so far?
The rioters began to flee after the SOC was deployed. Police are talking to workers at several dormitories. Given the scale of this incident, it will take time.

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