- I am delighted to be here at the inaugural Police Specialist (POLSPEC) Conference 2018.
- Despite this being the inaugural conference, I am glad that we have over 17 law enforcement agencies from over 13 countries participating in this event.
- I would like to thank our partners from the region and beyond for your strong support – many of you have travelled long hours to be here today.
- Your presence here is a testament to the strong ties you have forged with the Singapore Police Force.
- I am confident that with the diverse background and your diverse experience, we will be able to have a fruitful exchange of knowledge and information.
The Evolving Threat of Terrorism
- The changing nature of terrorist attacks is becoming very apparent. Terrorists are attacking soft targets like places of worship, theatres and parks – essentially anywhere that people gather. They want to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Their focus is on causing bloodshed and mayhem, and not just with bombs and guns. They are also using everyday objects like vehicles and knives.
- Many of the attacks were carried out by lone-wolves or self-radicalised individuals. This is the nature of the threat we face today.
- We are seeing more of such modus operandi in attacks across the world, and a few examples are:
a) The truck attack in a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, which resulted in 12 deaths and 56 injured;
b) The van and knife attack in London’s Borough Market and London Bridge in June 2017, which resulted in the death of eight innocent people and injuries to 48 others; and
c) The recent knife attack in the central business district in Melbourne on 9 November, which resulted in the death of an innocent man and injuries to two other people.
- As we grieve with the world on the loss of lives, we must recognise that our traditional methods of dealing with this evolved threat are becoming less effective.
- We need to adapt and adjust our strategies accordingly to deal with this evolving threat.
Singapore’s Fight against Terrorism
- Singapore remains highly committed in the fight against terrorism. We are fortunate that no terror attack has taken place in Singapore for a while. But it is not a question of if, but when an attack will take place.
- We have adopted a national counter-terrorism strategy, comprising five elements, to deal with this threat:
a) First, countering extremist ideology – we must address the root cause of terrorism, by taking a strong stance against those who promote extremism and influence others to commit violence.
b) Second, encourage community vigilance – much efforts are devoted to prepare the nation against the threat of terrorism, by partnering community volunteers and educating members of public, so that they know how to react to an emergency or terrorist attack.
c) Third, increase security infrastructure and use of effective legislation – we have deployed a wide network of sensors such as Police cameras, to deter and detect potential threats.
This is complemented with the enactment of laws such as the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act and the Infrastructure Protection Act to provide law enforcement officers and agencies with legal powers to counter terrorist threats.
d) Fourth, develop a robust security response in the event of an attack.
e) Fifth, promote international and intelligence cooperation.
- I will focus on the last two elements: developing a robust security response and promoting international and intelligence cooperation, as these are the points most relevant to this conference.
A Robust Security Response
- Because of the new modus operandi of terrorists to kill and injure as many people within a short time, we must respond and engage the attackers swiftly and decisively.
- The Singapore Police Force has rolled out new units to enhance its tactical response to a terrorist attack:
a) First, the formation of the Emergency Response Team to augment Police’s frontline capabilities with higher firepower and responsiveness.
b) Second, the deployment of In-Situ Reaction Teams, comprising highly-trained officers, at locations of significance in Singapore for fast and immediate response.
c) Third, the formation of Rapid Deployment Troops to enable a nimble, specialist response to an incident.
These officers will respond to incidents on motorbikes to enhance their mobility and speed of response.
- In forming these new specialist teams, we have studied past terrorist attacks, and the practices adopted by other law enforcement agencies to deal with such threats.
- The Home Team is also collaborating with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in the fight against terrorism.
- The Home Team conducts regular exercises with the SAF, to create close operating linkages between both agencies to ensure mission success in the event of a terrorist attack.
- Even as we invest in the use of advanced technology, they will not be able to replace human decision-making.
- This is especially for scenarios concerning life-and-death, and this means that we must depend on our officers to assess and resolve the situation on the ground.
- The success of each mission will only be possible with a strong focus on quality training of our officers.
Promoting International and Intelligence Cooperation
- Singapore cannot win this battle alone. To cope with the increasing complexity of the terrorism landscape, we must come together as an international community to fight this common scourge.
- Our officers are working even more closely than ever with specialists from other law enforcement agencies around the world, to build relations, to share intelligence and best practices to improve capabilities:
a) Within the region, we have forged close links with the police and security agencies of ASEAN member states, and have participated in ASEANAPOL meetings to discuss issues of interest and areas for collaboration.
b) We also maintain close links with our partners beyond ASEAN. We are proud to host the INTERPOL Global Complex of Innovation, which does very good work in improving policing and our understanding of key security issues.
- We treasure our ties with our partners from the region and beyond. We will continue to do our utmost to strengthen these ties.
POLSPEC Conference 2018
- This inaugural POLSPEC Conference, with the theme “Bridging Global Partners, Strengthening Public Security”, further emphasises our commitment to our international partners.
- Our international partners include many of you here today. You are among the best of the best from your country – members of elite tactical teams, special operations units, and special intervention units. You are at the frontline of this fight against terrorism.
- We envision this conference to be a forum for specialist officers to exchange ideas, share best practices, and learn from each other. I have learned from the organising committee that they have arranged an exciting programme for you.
- Other than the various guest speakers from around the world, who will be sharing their experiences in managing the responses to each terrorist incident, you will be visiting the specialised training facilities used by our Police specialist units. You will also be viewing live demonstrations by these units.
- We intend for these opportunities throughout the 3-day conference for you to engage in deeper discussions and exchange of expertise. This is a valuable chance to forge and strengthen friendships, and learn from one another.
- I encourage you to be open in the sharing of best practices and experience with one another.
- In conclusion, I must emphasise that we all share the common mission of ensuring the safety and security of our nation and our people.
- To do so, we must work together and learn from one another, to understand and cope with the ever-changing nature of the terrorist threat we face today. This will strengthen our response to a terrorist attack.
- I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the guest speakers for sharing your wisdom and experience. I have no doubt that your contribution will provide valuable insights for us.
- I would also like to commend the team from the Singapore Police Force for putting in the hard work to organise this inaugural conference.
- I am confident that the POLSPEC Conference will serve as an effective platform for collaboration and learning between police specialist units. With that, I declare the POLSPEC Conference 2018 open.
- Thank you.