Little India Riot Inquiry: She went into the heart of the riot

DSP Ho See Ying, commanding officer of Rochor NPC recounted what happened on Dec 8 last year.

She was unarmed, plain-clothed and alone.

It was past 10pm and Race Course Road was dark. All she could make out were burning vehicles on the road and a large group of people in the distance.

But that did not stop Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Ho See Ying from venturing into the heart of the riot to find out what was going on and where her other officers were.

While doing so, she even asked people to take shelter and for shopkeepers to pull down their shutters.

On Wednesday, DSP Ho, who is the commanding officer of Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC), which is at 11, Kampong Kapor Road, recounted what happened on Dec 8 last year before the Committee of Inquiry.

She said she was at home in Hougang when she received a call about the riot.

She immediately drove out and parked along Race Course Road, near Kinta Road, 25 minutes later.

She then walked towards Hampshire Road where she met about 12 police officers in full uniform, armed with shields and helmets. It was there she saw the ground commander of the night, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Lu Yeow Lim, whom she said was on the phone.

As the officers' shields were blocking her view, she decided to venture out on her own.

Committee member Andrew Chua then asked her if she was afraid of being attacked. Her reply: "I wanted to find out what was happening up front."

She headed to Race Course Road, but had to turn back near Kerbau Road as projectiles were raining in her direction. Even then, she still gave orders for police and auxiliary police officers to block traffic into Race Course Road.

When the Special Operations Command (SOC) arrived, she regrouped with her fellow police officers and moved behind the SOC column.

It was then that some of the rioters tried to run through the line formed by the column, prompting DSP Ho to give chase.

 
 
 

ARREST

She caught up with one rioter, but left his arrest to the other officers around her because "they had the handcuffs with them".

After this, she spent most of the night and next morning deploying her officers for arrests and patrols.

She also said on Wednesday that policing measures had been in place for Little India, which is under the jurisdiction of Rochor NPC, even before the riot.

She said her NPC deploys three fast response cars just to cover Little India. Typically, NPCs deploy only one per sector, she added. She also said 10 uniformed officers would also be patrolling Little India at any one point, and that all the 14 outdoor closed-circuit television cameras were operational.

Rochor NPC also works closely with the grassroots and gets feedback from foreign workers and the community, she said.

When asked by Senior State Counsel David Khoo if this was a "situation waiting to happen", DSP Ho said: "It was sparked off by (a traffic) accident and no one can predict when an accident was going to happen.

"We have had previous fatal traffic accidents... at Little India, but none of it has spiralled out of control in that manner."

That sentiment was echoed by DAC Daniel Tan, Commander of the Central Police Division.

"We have had special deployments over the weekends. We have worked with the community and the stakeholders in terms of events, facilities, Sunday market, organising movies, all this to limited success.

"So we cannot say that we never saw this coming, but I think the scale is something that is beyond the normal police officer on patrol," he said.

Since the riot, additional cameras, police officers on patrol and a team dedicated to look out for drinkers who cause a nuisance are also in place, he said.

DAC Tan added that he was proud of the police officers who responded to the riot that night.

"Many of them got injured. None of them shirked their responsibilities," he said. "They have been working very hard in that area and they continue to do so."

But this comes at a cost, he said.

"These officers are sacrificing their days off, leave has been cancelled, even training hours have been cut because they have to project police presence.

"We're committed to ensure that such an incident does not happen in Little India again or anywhere for that matter," he said.

rloh@sph.com.sg

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