Ladies and gentlemen,
2 The volatile global security climate since September 11 has brought the concept of security to the forefront. The recent bomb blasts in Philippines on the eve of the ASEAN Summit is another reminder of the continuing threat of terrorism in the region. Indeed, although there are no specific threats against Singapore, we remain a prized target. It is therefore critical that we continue to remain vigilant and be prepared to deal with any eventuality. Increased vigilance, coupled with robust security measures in place, has helped to ensure the successful organisation of large-scale events such as the recent IMF and World Bank meetings in Singapore.
3 Indeed, security is now no longer the sole domain of the Government. It is also a valued service provided by private security agencies that have both the expertise and resources to offer a range of programmes and services that are tailored to the varying needs of their clients and the infrastructures that they protect.
Importance of Private Security Industry
4 In this new era, there is a displacement of threats towards `soft’ civilian targets, which include commercial targets. There is growing realization that the Government alone cannot deliver every security need. Government forces cannot be omnipresent. In a high threat environment, it is important that the private security industry, with its presence in most prominent buildings andestablishments, plays its part to contribute effectively to the security network.
5 In Singapore, we recognize the private security industry as a key strategic partner in ensuring national security. The industry comprises close to 36,000 individuals which include armed auxiliary police officers and unarmed security officers. In comparison, the Singapore Police Force is about 12,000 strong, only one-third the size of the private security industry. The role of the private security industry in hardening commercial properties and private establishments is an integral component of Singapore’s layered defence strategy against terrorist attacks. A majority of our critical infrastructure is now protected by private security forces. They are important to augment the efforts undertaken by the Government in the areas of border control and community mobilization and help enhance our crisis management capability.
Outcomes of Effective Regulatory Framework
6 Today, Singapore is on its way to developing an effective, growing and inclusive tripartite relationship where the regulator, the security practitioners and key buyers of security services each have a stake and are accountable for clearly defined outcomes.
7 There are three clear outcomes of an effective regulatory framework. Firstly, the framework should promote upgrading of the workforce; developing competent and better qualified personnel to meet increasing security needs. Secondly, the regulatory framework should lead to an enhancement in the overall standards of the security industry players so that these players are professionally managed and able to deal with varied threats in the security environment. Lastly, the framework should not stifle innovation in the industry but facilitate its growth.
8 Recognizing the need for more effective regulation, we established the Security Industry Regulatory Department (or SIRD in short) under the Singapore Police Force in September 2004. Since then, SIRD has put in place a robust regulatory framework to effectively regulate the industry. This framework comprises setting appropriate standards, employing a rigorous training and testing regime and a robust audit and inspection regime to encourage compliance with the required standards.
Thriving and Growing Industry
9 The Police, together with strategic partners like the National Trade Union Congress, the Ministry of Manpower and the various security associations, have been working in close collaboration to enhance the overall standards and professionalism of the private security industry. These efforts have succeeded in attracting more and better qualified entrants into the industry. The number of security officers in the industry has grown significantly - by about 25 percent - since the beginning of 2005. The gross salaries of security officers have also increased from about $1000 in 2005 to as much as $1,800 currently. In recognition of its achievements in promoting the private security industry, SIRD of Police and its key strategic partners were awarded the Job Re-creation Sprinter Award by the Prime Minister in February 2006.
Better Qualified Security Workforce
10 To raise the competency of all private security officers employed by security agencies, a set of formal competencies and skills standards under the National Skills Recognition System (NSRS) was introduced in 2005. Today, all security officers in Singapore are required to be approved and adequately trained before they can be deployed for duties.
11 A career progression framework has also been developed in consultation with the industry. Security officers within the private security industry now have a clear career progression path which is defined by a recognized rank and qualification structure. With increased public awareness and adoption of an established national qualification framework, security officers will be motivated to upgrade in order to earn better wage benefits and seek professional recognition.
12 To further drive professional enhancement in the industry, the Singapore Government is currently revising our current Private Investigation and Security Agencies Act to refine existing regulatory controls. The focus of the new legislation will now extend beyond just ensuring that undesirable persons do not enter the industry, to building a more professional, well-trained and disciplined private security industry.
13 Under the enhanced regulatory regime, all security officers will hold their own personal, individual licences upon meeting screening and training requirements. With the responsibility for the licence now resting primarily with the individual security officer, this will help foster greater pride amongst security officers in the profession.
More Professional Industry Players
14 An environment of trust and understanding between the SPF and the security industry has been created through open channels of feedback and information. Various effective platforms such as regular briefings and workshops have been established for the Police to work in close collaboration with its tripartite partners for the development of more professional industry players.
15 Through these platforms, important industry feedback is obtained on industry needs and developments. Briefings and workshops also help enhance the level of security awareness and vigilance of the private security industry. A plan is being crafted with the industry to promote security awareness through the sharing of best practices with industry players. These channels of communication are critical during times of crisis in order to expeditiously disseminate relevant security information and ensure that the industry is prepared to deal with emerging threats.
16 Another move to improve the professionalism of the industry is the introduction of a grading system to provide an objective and authoritative assessment of security agencies. The comprehensive set of grading criteria was drawn up in consultation with the industry and will serve to motivate existing security agencies to raise their security and service standards.
17 Efforts have also been made to strengthen the partnership with major buyers of security services in the business community by enhancing their level of security awareness. A security buyers’ awareness seminar was held last year to allow major buyers in the business community to be more discerning in their engagement of security service providers.
18 Much has been done to strengthen the private security industry in Singapore. In a way, the ASIS International Security Conference is both a timely and an excellent platform for our local security service providers to network and share best practices and knowledge with our international counterparts.
19 It has been said that “terrorists just have to get it right just once while we have to get it right all the time”. However, the terrorist will find it a lot harder to get that one single chance if we carry on with these efforts, and if we all remain vigilant.
20 On this note, I wish everyone a fruitful and interesting conference ahead.