Commissioner Wee Teck
Home Team Colleagues
Partners and Friends
And a very warm welcome to a new colleague in Home Affairs, Sun Xueling.
YEAR IN REVIEW
- We start with the year in review. You look at it again, bedrock, the thing that matters most to Singaporeans is crime rate, a sense of safety.
- In the last year, overall crime decreased from an already low base. It came down by one percent. The crimes you look at, robbery, housebreaking, snatch theft, motor vehicle and related theft this all has an all-time low. And crime rate per 100,000 is now at 584. It is an excellent achievement by the SPF. You deserve a round of applause.
- Again, international indices are not the be all and end all, I mentioned that at times. The real test is the lived reality of our people, but we do look at international indices to get a sense of how others are perceiving us, and the Gallup Poll which we referred to which is respectable, has put Singapore as number one for the third consecutive year. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index has also put Singapore first in the category of personal safety, which is what people’s sense of reality is.
- Now we move to what we face. I’ve spoken about the challenges that the Police face in the past few years – Manpower, more complex environment. Along with the rest of the Home Team, Police have to deal with these challenges.
- I will touch on three aspects – First, the enhancing of counter-terrorism (CT) capabilities, second, the use of technology, and third, quite crucially, public trust which is intangible but which is fundamental and bedrock and underpins everything else.
ENHANCING CT CAPABILITIES
- Last year, CT capabilities have continued to be enhanced. Several attacks in Malaysia, Indonesia, have been stopped, foiled by the authorities. The threat levels remain high. We have been picking up Singaporeans who have been radicalised. Continuing to pick up.
SHARPENING OUR SECURITY RESPONSE
- During the recent COS debate, I spoke about the fact that MHA’s budget increased while most other ministries’ have been coming down. A large part of the increase will go into building CT capabilities and sharpening our responses in the event of an attack.
- Police have studied attacks in other countries and we have had exchange programmes, our officers have visited and we have also invited people to come and brief us on how they have handled it. So they have learnt the lessons and they have seen how others do it. So the careful reviews have led to both tactical changes as well as changes in legislation. Careful review led to the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act earlier this year, and provides Police with enhanced powers to deal with such situations. And we have rolled out, in terms of CT resources, more ERTs. We have also introduced the IRTs, the In-Situ Reaction Teams.
- Now that we have these teams as well as other responders, Police will be the first responders in any situation. As we introduce more capabilities, the inter-operability between the first responders, would be the patrol cars, and the other tactical units will have to be sorted out. It is going to require more frontline tactical training, both with the ERTs and IRTs as well as the other tactical forces.
- On this, Police have a video that they showed me. I would like you all to watch that. It demonstrates how the SPF forces come together to respond to an incident.
- I just came back from Paris and I asked for a detailed briefing on their tactical approach. Unfortunately, they have had to deal with a number of attacks. But their response mechanisms have been sharpened to quite an impressive level. There is a lot for us to learn and we have to be at the same level even though we don’t have the same level of experience. It is good that we are working closely with the French. I have suggested to them that we would like to work closely with them.
BUILDING COMMUNITY PREPAREDNESS
- That’s on the tactical aspects, the building up of capabilities. Separately, there is the big element of community and community preparedness. It is a critical layer for us. We launched the SGSecure movement in 2016, and it has been more successful than any of us could have hoped for within a short timeframe. Home Team officers have knocked on more three hundred thousand households within this short space of time, and sensitised our residents to the threat of terror and also raised awareness on what people should do in the event of an attack. The “Run, Hide, Tell” and the “Press, Tie, Tell” – these all have become familiar to our people by now. The second aspect is working with the People’s Association (PA) on the Emergency Preparedness (EP) days. More than 50 constituencies have had theirs and by the end of this year, all constituencies will be done. All 89 constituencies would have had their EP Days. The effort to build community preparedness cannot stop with the EP Days, we have got to continue as we have got to keep the momentum up. That is never going to be easy because there is always the perception that if anything happens, the Police will deal with it. We don’t want any attacks, but the longer there are no attacks, the deeper-seated will be the sentiment that nothing will happen and that is something that we have to guard against.
- Separately, all of this has to work within a policy framework. The legislation has been strengthened significantly. We amended the Public Order Act, we introduced the Infrastructure Protection Act so that event organisers and building owners have the additional responsibilities and they need to work with us.
SURVEILLANCE AND SENSE-MAKING
- That is one aspect. Separately, technology. Harnessing technology has become essential for us to do our job. First, surveillance and sense-making. Last year I talked about the Home Team Operation Centre (HTOC), where the entire Home Team resources and capabilities will be brought together to respond to major incidents. We are making a good progress – as an interim step we have the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC), which now includes officers from SPF, ICA and CNB, to come together to sense-make a common situational picture which enables a joint security response.
- We are expanding our camera networks. Under PolCam 1.0, almost 65,000 cameras were installed. In 2017 under PolCam 2.0, we added another 5,000 cameras, a small number of which have in-built video analytical capabilities. Today more than 2,000 cases have been solved by the use of cameras. It has reduced substantially the number of unlicensed moneylending type of acts. This year, another 5,000 cameras will be installed, with greater use of video analytical capabilities.
- As we are doing it, we can look at what other countries are doing. Of course, I think one of the leaders in this has been China – one of the largest CCTV networks in the world. They have already deployed 170 million CCTV cameras, many of which are equipped with video analytics. Within the next three years, there are going to be another 400 million cameras. Those are the kinds of numbers.
- What is very impressive is that their officers already seem to be cutting edge. They wear glasses which have facial recognition (FR) technology. Their cameras have this FR technology and are deployed at various places, including concerts and festivals. How do we know that? There was a news article a few months ago, about how a wanted man, I think he was wanted in Beijing or some major city. About 7,000km away in Nanchang City, a second-tier city, he went to Jacky Cheung’s concert with 60,000 people, and the cameras picked him out and he was picked up. That is the kind of power that technology can give to law enforcement officers.
- Our capabilities must similarly be that if something happens, we want to trace the person, we need to have complete real-time capabilities. Where is he? What is he doing? Which car is he getting into? Which carpark? Is he getting to the exit points? Alert ICA immediately with video analytics. We are not there yet. We have to get there.
DRONES AND DROIDS
- Police are also increasing the use of drones and droids. I was met by a robot today, this morning. Exploring the use of robotics to do patrols, special drones during the Marina Bay countdown. Many of you might have seen the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that was in the skies – quite hard to miss it given how bright it was. 16,000 lumens compared to the car headlight which has got about 1,500 lumens in brightness.
- And this patrol robot which was deployed for the first time at Chingay this year. It has got 360-degree footage piped back to the Police command post. So they are experimenting with these and they will feature much more in Police deployments this year.
- Separately, we are talking about the Police smartphone. All frontline officers will get the smartphone over time and that allows us to push real-time information to officers on the ground, 24/7. It helps them make better decisions, faster decisions, and more effective response on the ground.
SECURING THE PUBLIC’S TRUST
- The third aspect that I want to touch on is public trust. Technology, our tactics, our operations all have to operate within a context. That context has got to be favourable. And the favourable context is created by public trust. Without public trust, everything else becomes much, much more difficult. Your crime rates won’t be like this. Your Police officer ratio to population cannot be like this. Everything you do will be under much greater criticism. And that will impact the way you operate as well.
- And we have seen in other countries how easily trust in the Police can break down. When that happens, law and order breaks down too.
- I want to show you all this picture in 2016, about two years ago, this is outside the Police headquarters in Baton Rouge. I think Police officers certainly will know, movements in the US started with “Black Lives Matter” because a number of African-Americans were being shot, often by Police officers. And then a counter-movement of “Blue Lives Matter” because Police officers were also getting shot. And there were demonstrations all over – this photograph went viral because it shows the classic confrontation between a weaker African-American lady versus the Police establishment. Police officers armed to the teeth. And they seem to be backing off.
- Of course, it comes in a certain cultural context. Two hundred years of the relationship between the African-American community and the establishment. Two centuries of hurt. And the Police in particular, often in every society, are as seen as that instrument of the state which people most directly come into contact with. And everything they feel about the state is often reflected onto the Police force and separately, the crime statistics, the number of African-Americans involved or picked up for crimes, whether it is just, unjust, how the criminal justice system treats them, all of this gets fused into how people think about the Police.
- That fortunately is not the situation here. None of the communities feel specifically targeted or oppressed by the Police force, and it is both because the Police force has been corrupt-free, has been rigorous in the way it handles its duties, and has been strict with its own people when they transgress. And of course, the Police force can’t do it by itself.
- If the people don’t have trust in their government, they don’t have trust in the institutions, they don’t believe that the government is corrupt-free, they don’t believe in the judiciary, they don’t believe that there is rule of law, they don’t believe there are social opportunities, then of course they are not going to trust in the Police force either.
- So we have been fortunate that people have trusted the entire system, and the Police force has then been able to ride on that by behaving well and being an effective force, and have gotten additional trust.
- I’ll give you an example, and this is a survey that I frequently recount. I suppose we are due for a new survey soon; I hope the figures are at least as good. This is incredible, I share it with my colleagues elsewhere, I sent it to then-home secretary in the US and he was completely shocked, because these are not figures that they are used to. He asked me for details and I gave it to him. It’s been built-up over many years, and to maintain this, the criminal justice system, the Police, must be fair, must be seen to be fair, and we have to be seen to be accountable.
- Let me give you an illustration. If it was not almost first-person I wouldn’t have believed it. A regional Police force. My wife was helping out in a girls’ home. These are girls who either don’t have parents or one way or another in a home. And there was a dispute between the management committee, and in this country when you have disputes you can send gangsters. So gangsters turned up at the home and knocked down the gates and banged the doors, with the teenage girls and women inside, and my wife was inside. So she called the Police. The Police told her “Is anybody dead?”, No. “Is there any blood?”, No. “Then we don’t need to come”. I think when you get that, then you can imagine how much faith these people are going to have with the Police force. Thankfully, we have taken a different path.
- So, coming back to accountability. We introduced Body Worn Cameras, that was introduced three years ago in 2015. That has enhanced accountability in a sense that people know that whatever interactions they have are now captured on camera. And at the same time, Police officers welcome it too. It is no longer you said this and I said this. Everything is there. I think it enhances our own professionalism, and protects the Police officers, and gives the public a sense of confidence and accountability. We have also taken the major step of video recording of interviews, introduced this year and rolling out slowly. I think it is generally welcomed.
- At the same time, we have pushed Police to also be seen to be sensitive to the more vulnerable sections of society – young people who are picked up, women who are sexually assaulted. The Appropriate Adult Scheme will be expanded. Since April this year, it has been expanded to Central, Clementi and Tanglin Divisions. The sooner we can get it to all divisions the better it is. We have also got the OneSAFE centre which has been operating for a few years, it has been enhanced now and again that is a very welcomed development. These are all important steps, they both signal to the public that psychologically the Police are part of the solution and with them. As important for that the symbolism as they are for the actual reality. Both are important.
- Now that brings me in this context of trust to a further point that I want to make, in the context of what’s happening around the world. Trust has many different facets - Trust between the public and the Police force, trust within the Police force within the ranks, trust between the Police force and MHQ, in particular the political leadership. So Police need to know where the Ministers stand on issues when tough situations come about.
- And I want to share with you, something that I share with the senior management. Recently there’s been a controversy in the UK about immigrants, they call it the “Windrush” generation, people who have come in 1950s and 60s to work in the UK, but they were not documented and now they are treated, because they don’t have documents, as undocumented immigrants and being deported back. Home Office is of course responsible. So questions have been asked, and this is what the Home Secretary said on 16 April: “I’m concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy, and sometimes loses sight of the individual. I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I will never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people… I do not want us to be run by a target culture. I want to make sure the individual is at the heart of any decision.”
- I’m sure she’s stating the facts accurately, but nevertheless it puts a distance between the political leadership and senior civil servants carrying out the policy. “They are doing this, they are not putting people at the centre of the system. I don’t agree with it, I will now go and sort it out.” They must have good reasons for taking this approach, it’s not for us to comment. I think if your parliamentary majority is 10 or 15 of the coalition in place, and each day the media is hounding you for your resignation, your world view will be different. So it’s a different political system, different political culture, but what is our lesson and where do our services stand vis-à-vis the political leadership. I think I want to state very clearly that our situation is slightly different. This was illustrated by what was said during the Benjamin Lim matter, the debate in Parliament. This was on 1 March 2016. And this is what I said and I think it is worth repeating: “My ministry has the responsibility for the Protocol that is in place. And ultimately, responsibility is with me, as the Minister. It is not with individual Police officers. Their responsibility is to act according to the Protocol in place. If there are issues with the Protocols, the responsibility is mine. Let’s not attack the Police officers who cannot defend themselves. They are doing their job, every day, in difficult circumstances.” So to be clear, that would be our approach, that would be the position our Ministers will take.
- If something goes wrong operationally, we have to sort it out, try and make sure that we don’t repeat it. There has got to be professionalism, there has got to be internal accountability. Ministers cannot really do that. But accountability to the public and responsibility to the public will be with the Ministers. That is my approach, and I believe that will be our approach. And the services need to know that very clearly. So that you can go about your work confidently, do your duty, have faith and trust in the system. That is what is asked of you. Leave the rest to us, and be assured that we will answer the questions and shield you from political attacks.
- I also want to say something about the way that we approach legislation. We are increasingly in a situation where legislation that we propose, gets opposed by a small but vocal minority. Some of the opposition is principled, some just opposing for the sake of opposing. One clear example is POSSPA. It gives a lot of powers to the Police. It is probably legislation that is not very doable in many countries. I believed it was doable in Singapore because people trust the Police that they will exercise their powers responsibly, and we need those powers to deal with the situations that are evolving.
- You cannot deal with the new threats with legislation that is outdated. Which is the problem that many countries are having. But if you looked online during the period when we had the legislation in gestation, it would have created the feeling that there was a lot of opposition to it and we were doing something that was terrible.
- My duty in these things, as having the ultimate decision-making responsibility, is really having the common sense to distinguish between, first of all, what is right. Nip out what people say. First of all, you decide what is right, what is good for society as a whole, short term, medium term and the long term. Second, where is the weight of public opinion. That is not an assessment that we will leave to you. We would make it and we will be responsible for it. What does the majority think? If you cannot carry the ground, then you have to relook the legislation, obviously. And third, if we believe that it is right and if we believe that majority sentiment is with us, then not to be side-tracked by the vocal minority. As I said, some may be genuine, some just look opposed. As far as POSSPA was concerned, I was confident that it was the right thing to do.
- You look at examples, UK again, for example in 2011, riots started off as peaceful demonstrations in London against ruling by the Courts. Very quickly, it degenerated into rioting, looting, and setting buildings and vehicles on fire. It spread to other cities over the summer – Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester. Five people died, 205 injured, 189 of them were Police officers. Property damage was estimated to be 200 million pounds.
- We know our people, they trust our Government, they trust our Police. Majority of them, they do not want this sort of nonsense. But if you look at that small handful who put out their views and propagated them continuously, and try to get them all over the world, paint a false picture of the Police force, and paint a false picture of Singapore for political ends. And if you only read that, you will start wondering, what do Singaporeans really think? REACH did a poll, and our polls are scientific, these are margin of error of plus minus three per cent, we do not go and fiddle with the figures to satisfy ourselves or satisfy anyone else. This just came out a few days ago – 76% agreed that POSSPA was necessary, to enable the Police to handle major security incidents. And the preamble was read to them that this will give Police special powers during major security incidents, includes the Communications Stop Order which can prohibit the public and the media from taking or sharing videos, pictures, or text messages. These powers can be activated by the Commissioner of Police and the Minister for Home Affairs. So this was read out to them so that they understood clearly what this legislation was about. 76 per cent supported it. If you look at it in a little more detail, 67% specifically thought that it was reasonable for the Police to have powers to stop individuals from taking or sharing messages and videos. 78% trusted the Police to exercise these powers fairly. 82% supported POSSPA as a whole. So the most controversial of course, is the taking of videos, and of that 67%, if you drilled it down a little bit more, you will see the differences according to the age groups. So that tells us where we have to focus our communication efforts a bit more, to tell people how we do it.
- But this is really, the 80-20 rule. Sometimes you may get side-tracked by the 20%. Really, you ought to be focusing on the 80%. And so again, when we propose legislation, do not get worried. Think in terms of what is necessary for you. Put it up, but make it reasonable, and we will look at it. And carrying it, making the necessary assessments, is our job. You just do yours, and you will get the full support.
- This is the real Singapore. So we have to be confident about what we do. As long as we believe honestly that it is the right thing to do. As for opposing viewpoints, we have a duty to look into them. Some of them, as I said, can be principled, and if the viewpoints are valid, we have to consider, adapt, make the necessary changes, and then when we make up our mind, proceed.
APPRECIATION FOR OFFICERS
- Finally, let me express our appreciation for our officers. As I started out my speech, Police have done very well in 2017 and I have every confidence, we have every confidence that under the capable leadership of both Commissioner and his team, we will remain strong, steadfast, committed, to keep Singapore safe and secure.
- And not just regular Police officers, 850 volunteer Police officers, sacrifice their time. They train, they are deployed alongside our regular counterparts. Many put in far more than the minimum requirement of 16 hours. And of course, our national servicemen, who have been given greater and greater responsibilities. Many of them have been deployed to the front line for protective security functions at major events. So I thank our Police force as a whole, the regulars, the volunteers, the national servicemen, their families, and finally, I would like to thank our community partners and stakeholders for your continuous support for Police.
- Thank you.