Smaller teams can't handle large-scale riots

Divisional Tactical Teams (DTT) officers from the Central Police Division on patrol at the open field opposite Mustafa Centre in Little India. Each Neighbourhood Police Centre has one DTT, whose officers are trained to handle nonviolent protesters and crowds.

ASIDE from troops from the Special Operations Command (SOC), Divisional Tactical Teams (DTT) from Neighbourhood Police Centres are also trained to deal with public order incidents.

But these smaller teams do not have the capabilities to take on a large-scale riot, unlike the SOC, which was called in to quell the violence in Little India, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) heard.

"Yes, a DTT is trained to control riots and crowd situations," team member Azmi Mohamed Hamzah told the inquiry on Wednesday. "But we can only contain them until the SOC comes in."

The police staff sergeant, who was taking the witness stand on day six of the public hearing, said each Neighbourhood Police Centre is equipped with one DTT. It is usually a secondary appointment on top of regular police duties, said Staff Sgt Azmi, who has been a DTT officer since 2005.

DTT officers are trained to handle "passive resistance" or non-violent crowds who protest by holding placards, interlocking their arms as well as refusing to move or disperse, he added.

They can also arrest small groups of 10 people or less, depending on the situation.

Each DTT, whose predecessor was the Light Strike Force, comprises nine officers who have received formal training in riot and crowd control, the inquiry heard.

Last Friday, Deputy Commissioner of Police T. Raja Kumar said a DTT must assemble within four hours of activation, while SOC troops on stand-by are required to respond within 15 minutes.

DTT officers are usually equipped with a tactical shield, body armour, helmet with a visor and a long baton, the inquiry heard on Wednesday. The police say that the baton, which is less than 1m long, is a defensive weapon, though it can also be used during a "baton charge".

"Once the command is given, we will charge and give a full swing (of the baton) at whoever is in front of you," said Staff Sgt Azmi.

The DTT also takes part in joint training operations with the SOC, and up to nine different DTT units can be merged to form a larger team if required, the COI was told.

Former police commissioner Tee Tua Ba, who is on the committee, asked Staff Sgt Azmi whether, in hindsight, some DTT teams should have been put on stand-by on Sundays given the massive crowd and drinking problem associated with Little India.

"It can be done because our division at Clarke Quay has a team on stand-by," replied the officer.

To which Mr Tee said: "This is more dangerous than Clarke Quay, no?"

Staff Sgt Azmi agreed.

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