Parliamentary Speeches

Parliamentary Debate on the Motion "Commemorating 200 Years of the Singapore Police Force" - Response Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 03 August 2021

 I. Introduction

1.   Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

2.   Last year the SPF marked its 200th anniversary. A significant milestone. We had Sir Stamford Raffles landing in 1819 and the Police Force was set up in 1820. Essentially, set up from the very first beginnings of modern Singapore. 

3.   I thank Mr De Souza for moving this Motion, for this House to recognise the essential contributions of SPF over 200 years and for creating this occasion. 

4.   Mr De Souza outlined the SPF’s journey over the years and its contributions to Singapore’s development.

5.   The SPF started as a 12-man team in 1820.

6.   It is now, today, a 45,000-strong force, with regular Police officers, full-time National Servicemen, and supported by civilian officers, ORNS men and volunteers. 

II. The SPF Today - A Trusted, Respected and Effective Police Force

7.   The SPF now is a respected force with a high standard of operational excellence.

8.   Its success has to be tested by looking at the lived experiences of Singaporeans.

9.   And what are the lived experiences? I have, over the years, shared with Members, probably every year, what Singaporeans feel about their surroundings, safety, security.

10.   Mr Melvin Yong referred to the latest Gallup report 2020 which shows that 97% of residents in Singapore feel safe when they are walking alone in their neighbourhoods at night. The global average is 69%. I will come back to this point later but I think, on no account will Singaporeans want to give that up. That is a fundamental human right, to be able to walk where you wish and where you feel, man or woman, at any time of the day or night, without fear. And to allow your child to take public transport without fear.

11.   Singaporeans’ confidence in the SPF is also extremely high. Mr Yong also made this point. This has been so for many years. The latest 2020 IPS study shows that 87% of respondents were confident or very confident in the SPF. It is the highest level of confidence amongst all state institutions surveyed in Singapore, and also the highest globally, across other police forces in the study.

12.   What we have, this level of safety, security and confidence in the force did not just happen in the natural course of events.

13.   It is the result of paths taken, and also paths avoided, not taken.

14.   I will in this speech, highlight some of the factors that have made SPF successful and have helped it keep law and order in Singapore; then pay tribute to the contributions of SPF officers; and third, outline some of SPF’s plans for the future.

III. Factors Behind the SPF's Success

15.   Let me start with some of the factors that have led to SPF’s success, and its remarkable progress over the years since independence.

16.   There are many factors which can help or impede the performance of a Police Force. For example, the levels of Governance in society, the levels of equity and inequality. Many factors like this.

17.   For the purposes of this Motion, I won’t speak about these larger factors. Instead I will take a slightly narrower focus and deal with the factors that are more closely connected with Police work and Police as an Institution.

18.   The three factors I will touch on are:

(A)   Our criminal justice system,
(B)   Second, the quality of leadership in the SPF,
(C)   And third, maintaining trust with the community.

19.   Let me deal with each.

(A) Criminal Justice System

20.   First, our Criminal Justice System. No Police Force operates in a vacuum. Its operations are fundamentally influenced by the Criminal Justice System within the framework of which the Force operates.

21.   If the Criminal Justice System does not work, if there is no proper due process and crimes go unpunished. Then it is difficult for a Police Force to be effective.

22.   Madam Deputy Speaker, with your permission, may I display slides on the screen as I make my points.

23.   In this context, I often and I have often referred to a speech by Mr Lee Kuan Yew who said this in 1962, and I put it up for Members to take a look at it:

“In a settled and established society, law appears to be a precursor of order. Good laws lead to good order, that is the form that you will learn. But the hard realities of keeping the peace, between man and man, and between authority and the individual, can be more accurately described, if the phrase were inverted to “order and law”, for without order the operation of law is impossible.”

24.   Members will notice he said “Order and Law”. Not “Law and Order”. He reversed or inverted the phrase. You have to establish order first then laws can work. Otherwise, laws won’t work. I think it is fair to say that Mr Lee sometimes took a view similar to that which helps it put out about man and society.

25.   That philosophy underpins the changes we made to the criminal justice system which we had inherited from the British.  

26.   A lot of it, I would say, is primarily due to what Mr Lee believed, thought through and brought about.

27.   With a deep understanding of how people actually behave, how societies work and how laws actually work.

28.   The Criminal Justice System we inherited has a long history, evolving over many centuries in England.

29.   We adapted, changed and in some respects we changed quite fundamentally.

30.   And that helped create a framework for the Police to be effective.

31.   Let me give three examples, as to what I mean.

32.   We changed our laws for example, to allow the Courts to draw an adverse inference, if an accused person puts up a defence that he did not mention, when he was first interviewed by the Police.

33.   This position was based on the UK Criminal Law Revision Committee recommendation which had then not been put into practice in the UK.

34.   The Committee had said that hardened criminals could greatly hamper investigations, by refusing to answer any questions. So put the onus on them to answer questions.

35.   It runs against a basic principle. Some might say. The golden thread as it were of the right to remain silent.

36.   But we made the major change in 1976. It encouraged suspects to be forthcoming during investigations. Accused persons have to tell Police the truth when interviewed, or adverse inferences can be drawn.

37.   Members would have seen, perhaps in TV dramas, Police will tell the suspect that he or she has a right to remain silent. And if the Police officers did not do so, that becomes or could become a procedural problem and the suspect may walk free, on a technicality.

38.   Our position, it is in the public interest that persons under investigations by the Police tell the truth when interviewed. 

39.   The change had a big impact on how suspects behave and the entire criminal process. In this context, maybe I can take the opportunity of dealing with or responding to some points that Ms Lim made. I think she made the following points about VRI, translation into other languages and resource allocation as well as helping with victims and victim impact statements. Steps have been taken, further steps will be taken. I have responded on this previously.

40.   Since today’s motion is on the SPF and 200 years and celebrating SPF, I will not go into detail into those points, but we can discuss those on another occasion.

41.   There is another point that coincidentally forms a big part of my speech too, which Ms Lim made reference to Professor Herbert Packer’s work on due process and crime control. While it is not so clear, I think Ms Lim would probably move a little bit more on the due process model, or fall on the side of the due process model. The approach we have taken is not ideological. It is to see what is suitable, what works in Singapore. And as I said, in 1976, the steps we took would probably be described as more akin to the crime control model.

42.   And as Ms Lim was speaking, I remembered a speech by our former Chief Justice Mr Chan Sek Keong. This was a lecture in 2008, I think Justice Chan was Chief Justice was that point, he made at the centenary of Mr David Marshall’s birth.

43.   This is what he had to say and I can do no better than what perhaps the greatest jurist Singapore has seen, said about this process. He says from paragraph 13 onwards:

“Before I discuss some of these amendments, let me now sketch out for you the features of the criminal justice process that was in place in Singapore before 1976. We then had an investigative and trial process regulated by the Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act which basically provided the framework for a common law trial process which was highly admired, if not revered, in England at that time.”

44.   I make a point to take members through this in some detail, because if you want a safe and secure Singapore, with due process for all of us, it’s important to get this fundamental principle right. Because there is, and there will always be a tendency to move towards a much more of putting hurdles and processes in the way of the Police. The point is to strike the right balance. And I would emphasise that all members and all Ministers for Home Affairs and Law remember these fundamental principles. That’s why I said in my speech, paths taken and paths avoided. If we hadn’t taken this path in 1976, neither the Police nor Singapore would have today’s crime control system.

45.   So, let me read a little bit more about what Chief Justice Chan, as he then was, said.

“The fundamental principle was the presumption of innocence. This meant that (a) the prosecution must prove every ingredient of the offence against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt; (b) the accused had the right to remain silent at any stage of the criminal justice process, from investigation to trial; (c) the accused had the right not to incriminate himself, except in restricted circumstances; (d) the accused’s statements to the police were not admissible except in restricted circumstances; (e) he had the right to give an unsworn statement from the dock; (f) all evidence, even if true, was not admissible if it might have a prejudicial effect on the jury; and (g) the practice of the courts was to require strict compliance with the rules of evidence and procedure and to have strict oversight of jury directions on accomplice evidence and corroboration.”

“In a paper published in 1964 on the criminal justice process in USA, Professor Herbert Packer of Stanford University described two models of criminal justice process, namely, due process and crime control. This paper has since been regarded as one of the most important contributions to systematic thought about criminal justice.”

“The basic features are those I have just described of our criminal justice process before 1976.”

That means very much due process.

“Because of the presumption of innocence, priority must be given to the protection of the accused’s rights in a fair manner. Police powers of arrest and investigation should be limited to prevent potential official oppression of the individual. Procedural rights are not mere technicalities. Law enforcement officers and the prosecution should be held accountable to rules, procedures, and guidelines to ensure fairness and consistency.”

And he goes on, I will skip a little bit. And he says at para 15:

“Marshall achieved great success under this system. Many other lesser lights also shone. But it was inevitable that the prosecution would sooner or later take note of the defects (from its point of view) of the existing process which had been so ably and amply demonstrated by Marshall. It must have led the Government to rethink seriously about the objectives of the criminal justice process and how to achieve those objectives. Let me now introduce the other model of criminal justice process that Professor Packer had identified in his paper, viz, the crime control model.”

And he sets out the features.

“The repression of crime should be the most important function of criminal justice because order is a necessary condition for a free society. Criminal justice should concentrate on vindicating victims’ rights rather than on protecting defendants’ rights. Police powers should be expanded to make it easier to investigate, arrest, search, seize and convict. Legal technicalities that handcuff the police should be eliminated. If the police make an arrest and a prosecutor files criminal charges, the accused should be presumed guilty because the fact-finding of police and prosecutors is highly reliable.”

I’m setting this out, I’m not saying I agree with them. This is what Professor Packer had identified.

“The main objective of the criminal justice process should be to discover the truth or to establish the factual guilt of the accused.”

And he has a few other factors too.

“The 1976 amendments introduced many features of the crime control model. Ironically, these amendments were based on the recommendations of the 1972 Eleventh Report of the UK Criminal Law Revision Committee which the UK Government had rejected.”

For members’ reference, for those who are not lawyers, the UK Criminal Law Revision Committee comprised eminent jurists, lawyers. They looked at the system in the UK, and they came out with a set of recommendations, but it was not doable in the United Kingdom. In Singapore, it was passed into law, many of the recommendations. And Chief Justice Chan sets out the two major changes.

“All statements made by an accused to a police officer in the course of investigation would be admissible in evidence… And second, the trial process. If the accused is called upon to enter his defence, he has no right to make an unsworn statement from the dock.”

“These two broad changes led to an increase in the conviction of the factually guilty through pleas of guilt or at trials. Crime control was strengthened with the use of rebuttable and irrebuttable presumptions in substantive offences. These developments, together with better and more dedicated and efficient law enforcement have reduced the crime rate over the years and have made Singapore a safer place to live in. You might think that this statement is somewhat simplistic, but many people would agree that law enforcement in Singapore, although not perfect, is among the best in the world.”

46.   That’s the Chief Justice’s view in 2008. Now, that is not to say that therefore, crime control becomes the be-all and end-all. Of course, you must have fairness in the system. So it is a question of finding the right balance. But I would ask members to carefully consider what is suitable for our society when seeking to strike the right balance.

47.   The right balance is not, or should not, be guided by pure ideology. It should be guided by what works, what is fair, what is right. And we have a system today, trained the judges, a defence bar, rules of process, procedure; presumption of innocence except in the context of, say, drug trials where presumption of innocence is there but the defendant, the accused, has got to go and prove specific factors because those are within his knowledge, and in corruption trials. Also, reversal of onus of proof.

48.   So, we think, we do not say we have arrived. That’ll be not really inaccurate. It’ll be hubris. But we are constantly refining it, constantly trying to find the right balance. And the right balance also changes when society changes.

49.   But our philosophy is that the Police investigations should not be made into a series of technical hurdles which have to be cleared. But it must be a fair and clear process that helps to arrive at the truth. And I think all members will agree that it’s a question of balance, and it’s really a question of how you strike that balance.

50.   And we have, for example, talked about, implemented in some cases, initiatives like VRI, the Appropriate Adult Scheme, other initiatives. And all of this will help in the fairness in the process.

51.   Another example that I would put forward, in going back to my point about law enforcement framework within which the Police operate, is the tough penalties that have been introduced to deal with serious crimes.

52.   You know, I spoke about drugs, corruption, many other offences. The penalties were changed, and where necessary, onus of proof was reversed. If you have wealth, you’re a public servant, if you have wealth which is not explained, the onus is on you to prove. We also have preventive detention, CLTPA, adapted from British Laws.

53.   Jury trials were abolished. Instead, we have trials presided over by professional judges, who are better able to handle the complex issues, for a more reliable fact-finding process. It lessens the theatrics, reduces the risk of injustice.

54.   And the institutions required for an effective justice system – the judiciary, the public prosecution service, the Bar associations – they have all been built up.

55.   As a result, we have a Criminal Justice System which has worked well for us. But it is constant work, constant refining, constant tending, and it’ll continue to have to be so.

56.   If the system does not work well, and criminals walk away because the system is corrupt or weak, then Police moral and discipline will go down, Police will not be effective. We have avoided that.

57.   Now, I have only given a few examples of this framework, but Members can assume there have been many changes that are very substantive that has led to the system we have today.

(B) SPF Leadership

58.   But let me now move on this context of the SPF200.

59.   The second key factor behind SPF’s success – and that’s the quality of officers in the SPF and the quality of its leadership.

60.   The focus, by Mr Lee and his team, was on building not just the size of the Police Force upon Independence, but also the quality of officers and leadership in the SPF.

61.   High-quality does not only mean educational qualifications. You need qualities of character, a sense of purpose, and you must be able to handle the pressure and perform on the job.

62.   In 1972, seven years after independence, and again I quote Mr Lee addressing Police officers at the Police Dining-in. And I quote: “There are certain virtues in the force which never changes. It must have high morals. It must be proud of itself. And it can’t be proud of itself if it hasn’t got the right leadership. It must have that sense of purpose that comes out of men trained on a common doctrine. And it must have a sense of continuity.”

63.   Almost 40 years later, in 2011, at his final Police Dining-in, Mr Lee said, and I quote: “We cannot have a situation where the criminals are smarter and better resourced than you. If we don’t recruit strong officers, with moral fibre and a sense of purpose, you will go downhill very fast”.

64.   In the 40 years in between and before, these lessons were taken to heart and applied.

65.   Today, there is rigour in who gets to become a Police officer. Less than one out of every 10 applicants to the SPF is accepted as direct Sergeants or Inspectors. The emphasis is on quality.

66.   SPF also tries to ensure that good officers move up, regardless of their entry rank. It implemented the unified rank structure in 2016, went beyond academic qualifications. It provides faster progression through the ranks for officers who perform well. Once you are in Service, how you perform should matter more than your qualifications when you first came in.

67.   SPF also has a scholarship scheme - prestigious, competitive, highly sought after. Some who spoke earlier on this Motion – MPs Murali, Melvin, Patrick, all scholars, and of course DPM. SPF sent him on his first trip overseas to Cambridge. As a side note, if I may say so, one of the problems that SPF is finding that other services are increasingly looking at SPF. Because apart from DPM, the HCS, and various other officers, Perm Secs and those in other Ministries, have come. I suppose the approach we have to take is that we spot, we groom, we invest, we train, and then we should be glad they are taken by others.

68.   The SPF is also becoming more gender diverse. Today, we have [more than] 1,800 women in the SPF, making up 20 per cent, one-fifth of the force. They serve in every division, including Specialist Divisions.

69.   Madam Deputy Speaker, I’ve asked for a slide to be put up. Senior Staff Sergeant Siti Aisyah. She is from the Emergency Response Team (ERT), which is, members will know, our dedicated fast-response Police unit; and in the event of a terrorist incident, she and her colleagues will be on the ground immediately. The other photo is that of Sergeant Anna Anthony from the Community Policing Unit.

70.   Going back to Siti Aisyah, she is 30 years old. Her childhood dream was to be a Police officer. She volunteered for the ERT Conversion Course, which is tough, and she’s the first ERT Officer in Woodlands Division. ERT officers like her are trained in tactical and counter-assault skills. She patrols in public places with her gear, which is up to 17kg, and she maintains her IPPT Gold and Marksman qualifications. She is also a Physical Training Instructor, a Police Defence Tactics Instructor and a Range Safety Officer, and highly regarded amongst her peers.

71.   Gender is no barrier in the Police Force, even for the physically and mentally demanding roles like the ERT.

72.   And SPF actively grooms its officers for leadership positions in the SPF. They will undergo postings in ground units, Patrols & Operations, Investigations and Intel. They may spend some time in MHA getting policy experience, and the wider public service, sharpen their policy understanding, make them think whole-of-government. Some of them, the younger officers may spend some time with me, assisting me directly. And if they perform well, prove they can do the job, they will be appointed to Command positions in SPF. 

73.   SPF today is led by Police Commissioner, Hoong Wee Teck. Rose from the ground, highly respected by the rank and file because he is both operationally very good and at the same time, understands his men and women. So they respect him. Below him the Deputy Commissioners, Jerry See, Florence Chua, Tan Hung Hooi all in their early to mid-50s.

74.   They and the next echelons, you will get an example of SPF’s approach to grooming leaders, and I’ll illustrate by referring to three officers who are a little bit younger. How Kwang Hwee, age 42. Oxford, Stanford. Started as investigation officer in Ops. Moved on, various positions, then Commander, G Division. Spent some time in policy work in MHA. Then Director Ops and now Director CID, which is one of the most senior positions in SPF, at the age of 42. Lian Ghim Hua, 41, started again as Investigation Officer. Before that, on scholarship to Cornell and Stanford. Moved out eventually to become Commander F, which is a stressful position because he doesn’t have, I mean, in terms of crime, it’s not the highest, but it covers PM’s ward, and coincidentally my ward as well. So it’s a high stress job. Now, Director Ops, and high performing officer. Alvin Moh, age 40. Again started as an Investigation Officer, CO of NPC, of which DPM said something, Commander G Division, spent time at MHA, now Director Police Intel Department (PID).

75.   So all three, and others, and the Deputy Commissioners, and the Commissioner, and people below them, exemplify the SPF leadership today. And as I said, we also voluntarily give our various officers to the wider public sector. 

76.   If we go down the ranks, I’ll mention three young officers, whom I worked with directly. Again more to illustrate how SPF grooms its leadership. One of them is 37, and two others are 33 each, spent about 18 months working with me closely. Teo Zi Ming, 37, Sergius, 33, Lee Huan Ting, 33. They went through various ground postings - IOs, CO NPCs, so on. Came up to MHA, worked with me. Zi Ming is now Assistant Commissioner, Commander, F Division at 37. Sergius is now a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commander, J Division. Huan Ting is now a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commander, A Division.

77.   I have mentioned the senior leadership, because leadership is vital. Leadership also needs our committed ground officers. During this motion, we recognise all of them. The officer on Coast Patrol, off our waters. The officer in the NPC, on ground patrol. Officers doing their ER patrol, Transport Command, Traffic Police, POCC Command, Investigation Officers, Gurkha Contingent, Traffic Police, I’ve mentioned, many others. Our Volunteer Constabulary. They are our heroes, unsung, doing their work day in day out. They are all together, integral to the Singapore that we have today. And SPF knows that it must take care of every officer appropriately.

78.   The SPF today is an institution that is confident and forward looking. Officers have a strong sense of purpose, integrity, professionalism. Morale is high. There is high public trust and confidence in the SPF.

79.   This is a remarkable state of affairs.

80.   Even more remarkable when you look at the situation of Police forces in other cities.

81.   In the US, police officers nationwide have faced years of protests. There have been calls to defund the police.

82.   Gun violence against Police officers have also increased. According to data collected by one of the non-profits, number of officers killed or injured by firearms in the USA, 346 last year in 2020. About one every day.

83.   Against this backdrop, morale of officers is affected. Retirements are up by 45%. Resignations are up 18% from a year ago. Many Police Departments have trouble finding new recruits.

84.   The difference between Singapore and these places are not the officers.

85.   Our officers are neither superior nor worse. I mean, we make it a point to choose very good officers but people for people, Singaporeans, I’ve said, quality-wise it’s difficult to say draw conclusions. And the US Police Force in some states, we learn much from them. They are very good. But the difference is the wider criminal justice system, and the laws that can have impact on the Police Force and the entire approach of society to the Police. For example, if you have lax gun control laws, you will get more homicides, and more Police Officers killed. And if you’re a Police officer in the US, as one officer describes quite graphically, every time you get a call, whether it is a cat on a tree that is stuck. I don’t know why cats should be stuck on a tree but anyway, cat on a tree that is stuck or a baby that is being abandoned or a neighbourhood call, any call, you go there, thinking that someone might shoot you. You go prepared for all eventualities. You can see why.

86.   If you move to another example, London. I will illustrate my point by referencing to a report by an Independent Panel called the Report of Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, which was released in June this year, and received substantial coverage, including in The Financial Times.

87.   It relates to a person, Daniel Morgan, who was a private investigator. He was murdered in southeast London in 1987. Five criminal investigations and five, I think five, unsuccessful prosecutions. In 2013, finally, an Independent Panel was set up to consider what happened.

88.   The Independent Panel found that the family of Daniel Morgan was failed by police corruption. This is about the London Metropolitan Police. For example, the police officer who had searched Morgan’s office was a business associate and later, colleague of the Chief Suspect.

89.   In 2011, the London Metropolitan Police (“Met”) acknowledged, and I quote, “police corruption in original investigation was a significant factor in this failure”.

90.   London now has more than 100 murders reported every year, since 2015.

91.   And a Jun 2021 survey shows that only 36% of the population in London have confidence in the police, vis-a-vis 48% nationwide in the UK.

92.   Morale is also low.

93.   In a survey of police officers in England and Wales, 85% reported that police service morale was low. 90% cited the public treatment of the police had the highest negative impact on morale, amongst other factors, including pay and workload.

94.   So why this state of affairs? It is not because the London Police officers are, man for man, worse. It’s all these other factors. So I would say to members, have a care when we look at parts which we have avoided, and which we now may feel tempted to go back to.

95.   The London Met is a highly professional outfit and we learn much from them as well.

96.   But it is the criminal justice system, the pay of Police officers, many other factors, it is a political will to make sure that the criminal justice system works that the police officers are protected, as long as they haven’t done wrong and that the system allows for proper investigation and prosecution while making sure that innocent people can go free. And therefore, the entire system works properly, with the right balance.

97.   And look, every Police Force, including ours will also have errant officers. And we have to be more strict, the strictest with our own officers. That is the way to make sure that morale is up, integrity is up, public trust and confidence is up.

98.   So our officers know, any officer caught wanting will be treated more severely than any member of the public. That has been our approach.

99.   When an allegation is made against any officer, the Internal Affairs Office conducts the investigation. If wrongdoing is uncovered, the SPF or in appropriate cases , the Public Service Commission will take disciplinary action against the officer. Where crimes are perceived to have been committed, there will be charging in Court and the Court often take into account that this is a police officer who is charged with upholding the laws, and therefore the punishment is usually stricter.

100.   If a further review is necessary, there is an Independent Review Panel comprising persons of standing who can review the findings of the SPF’s own internal investigations.

101.   As a result, we have been able to maintain public trust, keep up morale and a strong sense of mission within our Police Force. 

102.   Consistently, over the years, a large majority of our officers say that the work they do is meaningful, and these are anonymised surveys. The work they do is meaningful, they feel engaged with the SPF, and they identify with SPF’s Mission, Vision and Core Values.

103.   Internally, Employee Engagement Survey results show very high morale for the last few years.

104.   Average scores for engagement across the SPF has increased from about 76% in 2018, to 78% last year.

105.   Half-yearly surveys conducted over the last three years consistently showed that more than 4 out of 5 SPF officers found their work to be meaningful.

106.   But workload remains an issue. Members will know: SPF’s manpower strength is very lean compared to police forces in other major cities such as London, New York and Hong Kong. And there is a limit to how much officers can do with the resources they have. We are studying this closely, and we will come back on this.

(C) Building Up Trust with the Community

107.   The third factor that I want to touch on in explaining SPF’s success is the strong trust between the community and the Police.  Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Dennis Tan spoke about this.

108.   Sir Robert Peel, known as the father of Modern Policing said: “The Police are the Public, and the Public are the Police.”  

109.   We recognised early on, the importance of building trust between the community and the Police.

110.   Over the years, many different community initiatives – the NPP system, the NPC & COPS systems, Community Watch groups, Citizens on Patrol, to name a few, have contributed to the high level of trust between community and the Police.

111.   The public trust in the Police sets the tone for the everyday interactions between the Police and the community.

112.   When a Police officer arrives on a scene, people co-operate with his directions. They accept that the officer has a right to investigate and manage the incident in the interests of the public.

113.   And members of the public largely trust the SPF. Many help the SPF by sharing crime-prevention messages, providing information on crimes and yet others have risked their own safety, assisting Police during arrests and  live incidents. And we make it a point to recognise, honour, praise them and give them an award.

114.   This level of public trust cannot be taken for granted. The SPF has to continue to maintain a high level of trust with the community.

IV. Singapore Police Bicentennial 2020 Medal

115.   Now let me move on to paying tribute to our officers.

116.   As we reflect on the SPF’s progress, we want to pay tribute to SPF officers – past and present, for their contributions and for their sacrifices.

117.   I thank Mr Murali for inviting to the House today. Some of our retired SPF officers, and SPF officer representatives and leadership group led by Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck. They are all up in the gallery.

118.   Our SPF officers across the generations – regular officers, civilian staff, National Servicemen, Volunteer Special Constabulary officers, retired officers. They have served Singapore faithfully and with utmost commitment.

119.   Mr Murali spoke about the 125 officers who have given their lives, probably more, almost and definitely, the 125 SPF officers who have given their lives in the line of duty, and he has listed their names in the Annex to his speech, to be recorded in the Hansard.

120.   I will mention six:

•   Detective Corporal Yuen Yen Pang and VSC officer Andrew Teo Bock Lan, who were attacked and killed by rioting mobs during the 1955 Hock Lee Bus Riots.
•   Inspector Allan Lim Kim Sai, who died in a shootout with a notorious kidnapper in 1965. Mr Murali spoke about him and his son is here.
•   Sergeant Mohd Saad bin Omar, who died after being shot by a drug suspect in 1979,
•   Station Inspector Boo Tiang Huat, who died while on anti-housebreaking rounds in 1994 and,
•   Staff Sergeant Nadzrie, who was involved in a traffic accident while on patrol duties in 2017 – 4 years ago. And I went to his wake.

121.   These officers and others, gave up their lives while trying to keep us safe and secure. We remember what they have done for the SPF, and for Singapore.

122.   We are privileged to have the families of two of our fallen officers with us in the House today. Mr David Lim is a retired Police Superintendent, and son of the late Inspector Allan Lim, and his grandfather was also a Police Officer. Mdm Chew Tuan Jong and Mr Boo Jia Liang, widow and son of the late Station Inspector Boo Tiang Huat. They are standing up in the Gallery. Can I invite them to stand up and Members can acknowledge them?

123.   As we commemorate the SPF’s bicentennial, we want to recognise the important contributions of the SPF and accord recognition to its officers. Members asked for it, so I will set out how we will recognise them.

124.   A commemorative Singapore Police Bicentennial 2020 Medal will be awarded to SPF officers who were in service for any period between 1st January 2020 and 31st December 2020.

125.   This includes regular Police officers, volunteer Police officers, Full-time National Servicemen, and Operationally-ready National Servicemen. The medal will be worn on their uniform.

126.   We will also award a Medallion to former Police officers who had retired or completed their National Service liabilities before 1st January 2020, to recognise their contributions.

127.   This Medallion will also be given to Civilian officers who were in service with the SPF in 2020.

128.   The families of SPF officers who had given their lives in the line of duty, will also receive the Medallion, in honour of their contributions and sacrifice. The Singapore Police Bicentennial 2020 Medal and Medallion is a reminder of the SPF’s proud history, and of the country’s appreciation of their steadfast commitment in safeguarding our everyday lives.

V. Strengthening SPF for the Future

129.   From the past, to the present and now to the future. It’s at the third part of my speech.

130.   As SPF commemorates its bicentennial, we are looking ahead, how can the SPF strengthen itself for the future. Better equipment, training and more technology.

131.   Let me explain to Members by giving you the perspective of a Police officer responding to a hypothetical incident, four years from now in 2025. 

132.   I will explain this by referencing to some slides.

133.   First, before the Police officer reports for duty, information on his work assignments for the day will be available through his Police smartphone. He will be notified of his patrol sector and partner.

134.   Once in the Station, he collects his equipment from the Automated Systems. The systems use RFID technology. Seamless. At the touch of a button, he will instantly draw his communication sets, his firearms and taser, and his other patrol equipment, such as his riot shield, and ballistic resistant vest. His body worn camera comes equipped with live streaming capabilities, for enhanced sense-making during incidents, and his Glock 19 Gen 5 pistol, provides higher firepower and ammunition capacity.

135.   The officer and his partner then get into their Next-Gen Fast Response Car (FRC), equipped with RFID technology as well, that enables them to keep track of the equipment within the FRC. They perform a visual check, and drive off in the FRC for duties so no more stock-taking, checking everything. Each FRC is equipped with improved safety features, and cameras with live-streaming capabilities, feeding back to Police Operations Command Centre (POCC).

136.   Assume a homicide is reported. The victim’s body is found burnt and disposed, in a car parked in a secluded location. There are no witnesses.

137.   POCC will push the case information to the officers in real time, and as officers rush to the scene, SPF investigators will make enquiries. 

138.   At POCC, the extensive network of Police cameras will allow investigators to quickly narrow down a prime suspect, based on movements caught on camera, and also help trace his current movements and whereabouts. This sounds hypothetical but I based it on a real incident where a body was burnt in a remote location and Police did find the culprit based on cameras and other information.

139.   Investigators access a digitised & automated screening platform. The system combs through multiple police databases, provides case information on the culprit, taking maybe 75% less time to do so than before. Very powerful. Brings all the databases together, information at fingertips.

140.   Crime scene specialists process the murder scene with advanced technology. Through forensics, the victim is identified. DNA evidence places the culprit at the scene of the murder.

141.   The officers then locate the suspect, and arrest him.

142.   This is an SPF that will use technology quite extensively to enhance its operational capabilities and streamline its processes.

143.   In particular, we will continue to enhance our sensor networks. We have installed more than 90,000 Police cameras since 2012. As I have told this House a number of times.

144.   Surveillance cameras deployed by Governments whether in Singapore or other countries, are sometimes criticised as being an invasion of privacy.

145.   These claims overlook a couple of basic points that most people want to live in an environment which is safe and secure.

146.   And conceptually, having cameras in public spaces is no different from Police interviewing eye-witnesses to establish what happened. The camera is a constant ever-present eye-witness whose memory won’t be suspect. It is literally black and white evidence.

147.   Surveys also show that people feel safer with the prominent placement of Police cameras in their own neighbourhoods. The people want these cameras in their neighbourhoods. They have been very effective in helping Police deter, detect and solve crimes.

148.   For example, in April this year, there was an armed robbery. It was solved within five hours.  The suspect was an AETOS auxiliary Police officer. He had drawn his firearm, changed his uniform and left the headquarters without authorisation. Visited a moneylender in Jurong, told staff to hand over the cash as he had a firearm. Made away with more than $24,000.

149.   With the help of cameras and other tech and investigative techniques, he was identified, traced, tracked and arrested in a safe manner within five hours. The potential he could have caused was great.

150.   So, we will install more cameras across the island. As I have told Members, we aim to have more than 200,000 cameras at least by 2030. They help our Police officers to deter, detect and solve crimes, as I have said earlier.

151.   The SPF will also continue to prioritise community policing, and step up partnerships with individuals, grassroots organisations, businesses and other public agencies in keeping our Singapore safe.

152.   Some key initiatives include the Safety and Security Watch Group, and the upcoming Community Watch Scheme, which will go beyond geographical-based approaches, to interest-based engagements with the community.

VI. Conclusion

153.   Madam Deputy Speaker and Members, the SPF’s story has been an inspiring one. Let me conclude with a quote again from Mr Lee, again in 1972, when addressing Police officers at a dining-in. The various quotes from MM will give a sense to the Members that he was a key architect, if not the key architect, of modern SPF; and a lot of the Philosophy, the approach, the legal system and SPF work came from him.

“You need integrity,
You need a sense of purpose.
You have got to have that mark which others recognise to be special.
You are upholding the state.
Without you, without the quiet civil servant who gets the things done,
all the young executives who can wine and dine in Shangri-la,
they will be down the drain.”

154.   As the SPF writes its next chapter, I am confident that the SPF will continue to uphold its tradition of excellence, and stay anchored on its core values: Courage, Loyalty, Integrity, Fairness, even as it charts its way through a more complex operating environment.

155.   And in doing so, the SPF must continue to hold its officers to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism, in order to maintain the trust of Singaporeans whom it serves.

156.   I ask all Members to join me in congratulating and thanking the SPF for its 200 years of exemplary service in keeping Singapore safe and secure.

157.   Long may this continue, for many generations to come.

158.   Thank you.