Published: 07 November 2022
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether there has been any review of the working conditions for security officers, including the factors that render them susceptible to abuse; (b) how it can be ensured that both private security agencies and their customers work together to provide safe working conditions for the security officers and minimise incidents of abuse; and (c) whether there are plans to better equip security officers to protect themselves against abuse.
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the enhanced penalties in the Private Security Industry Act has been effective in curbing the number of cases of abuse against security officers; and (b) whether there will be further reviews to these penalties in due course.
Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development
1. Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to answer together, Questions 15 and 16 in today’s order paper?
2. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) takes a very serious view of abuse and harassment of security officers. In October 2021, MHA amended the Private Security Industry Act (PSIA) to enhance protections for them. New offences addressing the common types of abuse and harassment were introduced, with penalties pegged higher than if they were committed against general members of the public. The amendments have been in force since May 2022. Given that it has only been six months since, it is too early to conclude on their impact. Nevertheless, anecdotally, the new legal provisions have enhanced awareness among security officers of the protections afforded to them, and have encouraged them and their employers to come forward to report incidents of abuse or harassment.
3. Preventing and deterring abuse and harassment of security officers requires the whole of society. The nature of their work, which could involve restricting access to premises, crowd control, and conflict mediation, invariably exposes them to greater risk of confrontation with people. Unfortunately, there are individuals who may respond irrationally and unreasonably to requests and directions given by security officers, with some even causing physical hurt.
4. Security agencies and service buyers play key roles in protecting their security officers. We are heartened to see that many are leveraging technology to create more productive and safer working environments. For example, there are now more security officers equipped with body worn cameras while on duty. From 2019 to October 2022, the Police approved 46 requests by 16 licensed security agencies for the use of body worn cameras. The use of such cameras will allow for better onsite management, and the additional evidence from the footages will facilitate investigations into allegations of abuse.
5. But even with more pervasive use of technology, abuse can still happen. This is why we need to enhance training for security officers, so that they can better protect themselves. MHA and the Police have been working with tripartite partners to enhance the competency of security officers in public engagement and conflict management, such as customer orientation, problem solving, and de-escalation skills. We will make these subjects more pertinent in the training that all security officers undergo before deployment, and assess how it can also be incorporated into refreshers for in-service officers.
6. Finally, we work with tripartite partners on public education to reinforce the message that abuse of security officers will not be condoned. This will include sharing available avenues for officers to seek help, such as through the Union of Security Employees (USE)’s free mobile application launched in December 2021, and the USE’s Mediation Service.