Published: 13 March 2015
Madam Speaker, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
2. Madam, the Police Force Act (PFA) is the main legislative instrument that provides for the organisation and disciplinary procedures of the Singapore Police Force (SPF). The PFA was last amended in 2004 to introduce a regulatory framework for the auxiliary police forces (APFs). This Bill seeks to strengthen the operational effectiveness of the SPF, prevent abuse of Police uniforms and insignia, and streamline internal processes.
3. Madam, let me now elaborate on the key amendments.
Enhanced Penalties for Evading Police Road Blocks
4. Clause 8 of the Bill amends Section 26(2) of the PFA to increase the penalty for evading Police road blocks, from the current penalty of a fine not exceeding $1,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. This is aligned with the penalty for the Penal Code offence of rash driving or riding which endangers the life or personal safety of others.
5. The Police conduct road blocks to deter and detect crime, including offences such as drink driving. Drivers who evade road blocks endanger the lives of other road users as well as our officers manning the road blocks, and themselves. These enhanced penalties serve as a stronger deterrent against such irresponsible and dangerous actions.
Strengthen Disciplinary Framework for Police Officers and Special Police Officers
6. The next set of amendments seeks to strengthen the internal disciplinary processes for regular Police Officers below the rank of Inspector and for Special Police Officers. Special Police Officers comprise members of the Volunteer Special Constabulary, full-time National Servicemen, Operationally Ready National Servicemen and Volunteer Ex-National Servicemen.
Disciplinary Framework for Police Officers
Interdiction of Police Officers
7. Clause 10 amends Section 29 which deals with interdiction of Police Officers. The circumstances under which the Commissioner of Police ("Commissioner") may interdict Police Officers are expanded. Interdiction may be ordered where the Police Officer is charged in court and the Commissioner is of the view that the nature and gravity of the offence warrant interdiction or where the Police Officer is being investigated for having committed an offence and the Commissioner is of the view that it is undesirable for that officer to exercise police powers, or discharge police duties, during the period of investigation. Interdiction may also be ordered where disciplinary proceedings which may result in the Police Officer's dismissal, reduction in rank, or retirement are instituted or where the Commissioner considers that it is in the public interest that the Police Officer should immediately cease to exercise the powers, and perform the duties, of a Police Officer.
Disciplinary Appeal Committee
8. Clause 15 amends Section 40 to set up Disciplinary Appeal Committees to hear appeals from Police Officers. Currently, a Police Officer who is found guilty of a service offence by a disciplinary officer may appeal to the Commissioner against the finding or punishment imposed. The decision of the Commissioner on an appeal is final. Under the new framework, Disciplinary Appeal Committees will be established to hear these appeals. A Disciplinary Appeal Committee will be chaired by the Commissioner and comprises 2 other Senior Police Officers of the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner, or higher, who were not involved in the original disciplinary hearing. Having Disciplinary Appeal Committees hear appeals will provide a more efficient and robust mechanism for handling appeals.
Revising the Limitation Period
9. Clause 40 amends Section 115 and lifts the limitation period for all Police Officers and members of the Volunteer Special Constabulary. The limitation period is the length of time from the commission of a service offence, that the offender must be tried. It is presently 6 months. This amendment protects the public interest by ensuring that disciplinary proceedings may be instituted against an errant officer regardless of when the alleged offence was committed or discovered.
Disciplinary framework for National Servicemen
10. I will now move on to explain the changes in the disciplinary framework for National Servicemen.
Interdiction of Police National Servicemen
11. Clause 28 amends Section 79 which deals with the interdiction of Police National Servicemen. This includes both full-time National Servicemen and Operationally-Ready NSMen. The circumstances in which the Commissioner may interdict a Police National Serviceman are expanded, similar to the changes proposed for interdiction of Police Officers.
Detention in Lieu of Fines and Remission for Good Conduct
12. Clause 30 amends Section 82 to allow a disciplinary officer to order a Police National Serviceman to serve a term of detention in lieu of a fine imposed. If, at any time during the period of detention, the National Serviceman pays the fine quantum, he will be released from detention.
13. Clause 31 amends Section 85(2) to allow for the remission of Police National Servicemen's sentences on grounds such as good conduct.
14. Clause 40 amends Section 115 by instituting the limitation period of 3 years for disciplinary action for service offences for all Police National Servicemen. This means that any disciplinary proceedings against Police National Servicemen must begin within 3 years from the date on which the offence was alleged to have been committed or when the alleged offence was reported to the investigating officer, whichever is later.
Forensic Specialists and Civilian Police Assistants
15. Civilian officers with specialised skills and training will be appointed to support the Police and law enforcement agencies in their work. Clause 19 provides certain Police powers to these civilian officers. Sections 65A and 65B relate to forensic specialists and Section 65C and 65D relate to civilian police assistants.
16. Clause 19 introduces Sections 65A and 65B which allow the Minister to appoint suitably qualified civilian officers as forensic specialists to assist Police Officers or law enforcement officers in their investigations. The provisions detail the powers and responsibilities of such persons.
17. Forensic specialists will be given powers to secure and search crime scenes, seize evidence, conduct forensic examinations and take statements from individuals. They may exercise their powers once directed by Police Officers or law enforcement officers whom they are to assist. For example, forensic specialists may be directed by Police Officers to respond to a crime scene. Thereafter, the forensic specialists may exercise their powers even if the Police Officer is not present at the crime scene.
18. Clause 45 makes a related amendment to the Fire Safety Act by providing similar forensic examination powers to fire forensic specialists, who will assist SCDF officers in fire investigations.
Civilian Police Assistants
19. Clause 19 introduces Sections 65C and 65D to provide for a new class of persons known as civilian police assistants. The provisions detail the powers of civilian police assistants.
20. Civilian police assistants, who will be known as Community Wardens, will assist Police Officers in maintaining peace and good order. They will attend to cases of high impact noise disputes in the community, where individuals are suspected of making noise to the annoyance or inconvenience to others. Community Wardens will be provided with specific powers to record particulars, take statements from the parties involved, advise individuals to abate the noise nuisance, and deliver composition notices on behalf of the Police.
21. The Community Wardens pilot is one of the initiatives under the Community Disputes Management Framework led by the Ministry of Culture, Community and, Youth. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth will elaborate on this during the second reading of the Community Disputes Resolution Bill, which follows immediately after this Bill.
Introduce Voluntary Extension of National Service
22. Clause 22 amends Section 68 to empower the Commissioner to enrol Police ex-NSmen into the Police Force. Currently, operationally ready Police NSmen are unable to continue serving once they reach the statutory age, of 40 for junior officers and 50 for senior officers. This amendment will allow Police NSmen to voluntarily serve beyond the statutory age, where their services are needed by the Police Force. It allows the Police to continue to draw on the valuable knowledge and experience of these volunteer ex-NSmen, and add depth to SPF's operational effectiveness. The volunteer ex-NSmen will have the same powers and protection as Police Officers while they are on duty. They will have the same status, recognition and benefits and be subject to the same disciplinary regime as Police operationally-ready NSmen. The introduction of voluntary extension of national service by this Bill aligns the SPF's practices with those of the SAF.
Amendments Relating to Auxiliary Police Officers
23. Madam, I will next clarify the powers of Auxiliary Police Officers (APOs). APOs support the work of the Police. They help the Police maintain law and order and ensure safety and security in Singapore. This is why APOs have certain Police powers, such as those of arrest, and the right to bear firearms while they are on duty. However, APOs do not possess all the powers of Police Officers. In particular, APOs do not have powers of investigation. Furthermore, unlike Police Officers who can exercise their powers at all times, APO powers are limited to the period when they are on duty. This has been the policy intent when the PFA was amended in 2004 to provide for a regulatory framework for the Auxiliary Police Forces (APFs).
24. Clause 32 amends Section 86 to make clear that APOs may detain or arrest individuals in the course of assisting the Police in maintaining law and order. Such powers of arrest are restricted to the period they are on duty and are conscribed to two situations, as is the current practice. First, APOs would be able to make arrests for arrestable offences committed in their view or presence. Arrestable offences are offences for which a suspect may be arrested without a warrant, for example, shop lifting. Second, for arrestable offences not committed in their view or presence, but reported to the APO, they may require the subject to provide his particulars while awaiting the arrival of Police. Should a subject fail to comply, the APO may detain the subject until the arrival of Police. The APO must hand over the person to a Police Officer without delay.
Streamlining Police Procedures in Handling Lost and Unclaimed Properties
25. Clause 36 repeals and re-enacts Section 108 to streamline the procedures for handling lost and unclaimed property deposited with the Police. Under the re-enacted Section 108, lost property will be treated as unclaimed at the end of 30 days after it is deposited with the Police and the owner does not make an earlier claim or cannot be found after reasonable efforts are made by the SPF. The Commissioner can then either arrange for the property to be disposed of or sold, with the proceeds paid into the Consolidated Fund. Lost cash that remains unclaimed will be paid into the Consolidated Fund.
26. The new Section 108(5) will allow the owner to still recover the property, or its cash value, net of costs, if the property had been sold. The new Section 108(5) prescribes a limit of 1 year for the owner to do so.
Offences Related to Police Uniforms and Insignia
27. Current laws in the Penal Code against impersonating a public servant, or uniformed officer, may only be used after the impersonation had taken place. Greater protection is required for Police uniforms and insignia, as the powers which Police Officers have are greater than those of other public servants. These powers include powers of arrest, search, and seizure of property.
28. Clause 42 introduces a new Section 120A which will make it an offence for a person to wear or possess any police uniform, or use any police insignia to personate a Police Officer or to cause members of public to believe that he is a Police Officer or has certain associations with the SPF. The offence carries a penalty of a fine not exceeding $2,500 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months. The new Section 120A will also make it an offence for a person to manufacture, sell or distribute any police uniform or police insignia without a licence from the Commissioner. The offence carries a penalty of a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
29. Clause 46 of the Bill makes a consequential amendment to the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act (MOA) to provide for the compounding of offences under the Act. This supplements prosecution and victim composition for the other MOA offences under the Criminal Procedure Code.
30. Madam, this Bill improves the operational effectiveness of the Police Force as a whole, strengthens the disciplinary framework for police officers and gives powers to the Police to deal with those who abuse police uniforms and insignia.
31. Madam Speaker, I beg to move.