Published: 14 February 2022
Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether he can provide an update on the internal investigations conducted against the police officers involved in the case of Parti Liyani v PP  SGHC 187.
Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law:
1. I thank the Member for the question. In respect of the case, the Police’s Internal Affairs Office (IAO) has completed its internal investigations relating to the Police Investigation Officer (IO) and his Supervisor.
2. Generally, the IAO will take this approach :
(a) Look at the facts of the case and the actions of the officers involved – how have they handled any lapses,
(b) Listen to the explanations given by the officers, and
(c) Assess and recommend the disciplinary action (if any) to be taken.
3. When the IAO started its investigations against the two officers, I made clear the following two points. These are points which I have made in the past in the House as well as outside:
(a) First, our approach must always be to do our duty, conduct investigations without fear or favour.
(b) Second, at the same time, we do not look to scapegoat or act unfairly. We do not go out to blame and punish, just because there has been a lot of public interest in the matter, and because some call for heavy punishment. We must deal with this case as we would deal with any other case, regardless of publicity. And, we must deal with it professionally and properly.
4. That’s extremely important for the public and the Police to know. Police officers have to often exercise their judgment and discretion in the course of their duties, sometimes on an urgent basis, but always under some sort of pressure. We want our Police officers to be confident in exercising their discretion, when they are performing their duties. We cannot fault officers just because we think, with the benefit of hindsight, that we would have exercised our discretion differently in their situation, or just because we do not agree with their judgment or exercise of discretion. And the officers must know that action will be taken against them, only if there are discipline issues or misconduct, or some breach. The management culture – all the way from the top, must be that we ask that the matter be dealt with fairly, be prepared to explain in public what action is fair and why.
5. The investigations in this case, found that both the IO and his supervisor had neglected their duties. Neglect of duty means the failure to take proper action to perform a required task.
6. The penalty for neglect of duty depends on the officers’ degree of culpability, and the harm caused by their actions. Penalties can range from a reprimand, or financial penalty, to demotion and dismissal from service. The maximum financial penalty imposed under the Public Service Commission (Delegation of Disciplinary Functions) Directions is a fine equivalent to the stoppage of increment for two years. There are of course other more severe penalties possible, under legislation, and that really depends on the conduct.
7. The IO who handled the Police report handled it as a routine theft case, and it was so. But there were some lapses. The lapses include:
(a) The IO did not visit the scene of crime promptly to carry out investigation and gather evidence. This contributed to a break in the chain of custody for some exhibits.
(b) Second, the IO did not properly verify some of the claims made by the parties during the investigation.
(c) Third, his supervisor did not provide sufficient guidance, which contributed to the lapses.
8. The IAO also took into account the intense pressure under which the IO was working under. He was handling many on-going investigations, prosecutions, and conducting arrest operations, at the same time. I have spoken before about the workload challenges that Police IOs face. The only way to deal with this is to increase Police’s headcount. We have not solved that issue yet. This is a difficult problem, and not easily solvable because of the general manpower shortage.
9. A financial penalty, in the medium range, was imposed on both officers for neglect of duty. The Public Service Commission (as the authority for disciplinary control of civil servants) has concurred with the penalty imposed on both officers.
10. As I said, the two Police officers were doing their jobs under difficult circumstances. And up until this incident, they have discharged their duties dutifully. I have sympathy for the situation they find themselves in. But, they have however fallen short of expectations. And they have been dealt with, in the way other officers would have been dealt with, in similar circumstances.
11. Thank you, Sir.