Police Workplan Seminar 2019 - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law
Published: 11 April 2019
Commissioner Wee Teck
Home Team Colleagues
COUNTER-TERRORISM REMAINS A KEY PRIORITY
We have just observed a storming exercise. We are in the process of building up and continuing to refine a robust counter-terrorism capability.
Events around the world, unfortunately, keep reminding us of the importance of this. As I’ve said elsewhere, if it can happen in New Zealand, it can happen anywhere in the world. One of the last places you would expect a terror attack in is New Zealand.
The SPF has been sharpening its response. We have been redeveloping capabilities, we have qualitatively taken different steps after the Paris attacks and since then, it’s been a continuous process. I don’t think this is one where you would say that we have reached the ultimate levels. Everyone around the world is learning. We are learning, and learning from them as well.
It comes about today with a multi-layered counter-terrorism response, with our In-situ Reaction Teams (IRT), Emergency Response Teams (ERT) and Rapid Deployment Troops (RDT).
Our plan is to put more IRTs at locations with large crowds so that the response time for the Police is reduced, as the first few minutes of an attack are critical. Every minute when you are under an attack feels much longer.
We will enhance equipping and we will continue to step up the training of our counter-terrorism forces. We have re-equipped our frontline officers with pistols instead of revolvers. We spoke about this last year, and new vehicles have been received by the ERTs - more space for their operational equipment.
The tempo and pace of exercises have also been stepped up and that includes operational readiness. In February this year, the Police conducted a major counter-terrorism exercise that was done with the SAF and it stress-tested our multi-agency response. It was an important milestone and validation of our counter-terrorism capabilities.
The second aspect is our community. We will continue to push the SGSecure initiative movements. We will expand our reach to target the private condominiums, and also bring in the religious organisations and businesses in a bigger way. And we’ve also been working with the schools since the beginning.
We need to go, as a community, well beyond where we are now to be prepared. We need a culture where people automatically step forward to help one another. Again, I think the response in New Zealand, amongst the people and the political leadership from the Prime Minister downwards, has been exemplary. It’s been something that I think you wouldn’t find in many places in the same way. It’s something that I think we can learn from.
So our SGSecure engagement efforts will continue to play a vital role in building up that culture.
POLICE HAD A BUSY 2018
Last year, 2018, was a busy year for the Police. Several high-signature events. The Trump-Kim Summit being on, then off, and then on again. It was a difficult time as people were going on leave and there was only a few weeks’ notice. The Police had to pull together a security plan in about two and a half weeks, involving more than 7,000 of our officers - not including the rest of the Government. We played a vital and essential role in ensuring that the Summit went on without a hitch.
The Police Coast Guard (PCG) has had an extremely busy year. It was resolute and, steadfast in ensuring the security and sovereignty of our territorial waters. There was a dispute that was brought about off our waters at Tuas. That has resulted in PCG having to operate at a very high tempo. Malaysia now has withdrawn its two anchored vessels, but PCG will continue with its normal patrols in the area.
Let’s watch a video the Police have prepared to cap off that busy year.
Moving on to crime control. It is under control but it is not something you can ever take your eyes off. You just look at a country (the UK) that we would all consider to be very safe. Still very safe but things can very quickly change even in localised areas.
Say London. We read about Brexit, it is dominating the headlines but there has also been an increase in concern over violent crimes. It would not have occurred to me to think of London in those terms but there are enough pieces of news on that, and in particular, violent knife crimes. Fatal stabbings in England and Wales in 2017 to 2018 have been the highest since 1946, in records that have been kept. That has obviously led to more calls for more funding, more officers, stronger Police powers. So you are on the treadmill all the time - every police force in the world faces this challenge.
We cannot let our guard down in Singapore. So, there has got to be, and there will be, a commitment to continue to resource the Police, and keep our laws updated and fit for purpose. We will support the Police, in your mission.
POLICE MUST CONTINUE TO PROTECT THE VULNERABLE
I will focus on three key areas, with this overview - one, how do we better protect the vulnerable; second, social cohesion and third, a transformation journey that the Police and the other Home Team Departments are on.
First, on the vulnerable. We have made substantive changes to the criminal justice reforms and we will make more changes in the next few months. The Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act were amended so that victims of sexual crimes and child abuse offences have been given added protection during Court trials. Where they can give evidence, what kind of questions we can ask of them, what sorts of duties are imposed on the Counsel and what the Courts have to look out for.
We will be amending the Penal Code; it will really be the most sweeping changes to the Penal Code that have been made in over 100 years. Amongst the changes - those who commit offences against vulnerable victims like children, foreign domestic workers and persons with mental or physical disabilities, will face enhanced punishments - up to twice the maximum prescribed for the offence.
We will also look at protecting women much more. For example, intimate partners previously could not come within the Women’s Charter, because the Women’s Charter only applies to married women, who can go and get a personal protection order. Now, we will give intimate partners rights -, not under the Women’s Charter, but under the other legislation that is being amended - powers to go and get a personal protection order. In the past, you have to go to the Police and it is treated like an assault. Now there are additional powers, additional avenues.
There will be new laws against digital-age sexual crimes – voyeurism, distribution of intimate images, cyber-flashing. These can cause distress and anguish, especially amongst female victims. They are often a target of such behaviour. These new laws will send a strong message that the Government will come down hard on sexual harassment and these sorts of crimes.
We will also be enhancing and amending the Protection from Harassment Act, making it easier for victims of unlawful harassment to get protection orders. Those who breach these orders can be arrested. Further, we will give remedies for individuals against whom falsehoods are made. They can go within five to seven days. They can get the orders and have them enforced so that you can protect your own reputation in an inexpensive, quick way.
Police will take swift and more decisive action to protect vulnerable victims when there is a crime, as now defined. Many of you will know about the OneSafe Centre. We will need to be sensitive to the circumstances and needs of some of these victims, particularly women and children. OneSafe Centre is an example of a successful roll-out. It is at the Police Cantonment Complex and it has worked well. It has minimised the stress caused to victims, including children.
DEFENDING OUR HARD-EAREND SOCIAL COHESION
Second, social cohesion. Many countries are now struggling with identity politics, fractured relations between communities, and that has then led to predictable trends. The rise of Islamophobia, white supremacy movements and of course, radical Islam, political Islam, with its own creed.
For us, our social harmony and the way we have structured society underpins our peace, progress and prosperity. And it underpins the way in which our Police work, because if the crime rates were very different, if society was fractured, Police’s tasks would become much more difficult. The reason why we are relatively crime-free and safe, is because our society in itself is law-abiding. It is built on a number of principles, and it is harmonious. Therefore, the limited amount of crime that takes place is within our ability to deal with effectively, and overall we maintain peace.
Racial and religious relations are always fragile. If we do not take care, they rupture and all of Singapore will suffer. And the Police know this, that we can never take racial-religious harmony for granted. I spoke about this at length in Parliament last week. The Police is aware of how insensitive attacks on social media, on race and religion, can go viral. It can evoke strong emotive responses, and the Police have had to intervene on many occasions as a neutral party, to deal with the issue before the situation got tenser.
So in 2018, for example we had a 36-year-old lady, whose Facebook comments were making insinuations, attacking one race against the other, and claiming oppression. It went viral, many from other races jumped in; and it was quickly becoming an issue between races - bitter and divisive. When she returned to Singapore, the Police investigated and gave her a warning - which is how we deal with most of these things.
And, you know, that pattern is repeated across the different races. We had a couple of young women who were praying in a fire escape stairwell. The building security told them to move to a room to pray, because that particular area was a fire escape stairwell and they couldn’t use that, and there was a designated prayer room that they could go to. They were not happy and they made serious allegations based on the race of the security officer. The Police investigated, advised them, put out the facts so everybody knows you are not being prevented from praying; there’s a place, there is a prayer room. You don’t block the staircase set aside for a fire escape, because other things can happen. If there is a fire, then there will be a problem. So Police will continue to play this role.
POLICE’S TRANSFORMATION JOURNEY
Third, we need to talk about transformation. We continue to invest significantly in technology across all Home Team Departments. Police continue to experiment with new technology, pilot new concepts of operations, and scale up successful innovation.
Now I want to highlight three areas where investments in technology have resulted in productivity gains and enhanced the effectiveness of our officers: (a) automation of investigative processes; (b) Police cameras; and (c) autonomous technology.
Automation of Investigative Processes
Police have made a concerted push to leverage on big data. One example is JARVIS. It has now integrated the scanning platforms, so that investigators can search across multiple databases in a matter of seconds, and it is estimated that it has reduced the time investigators spend on searches by up to 75%. It is a good example of how digitalisation and automation has allowed the Police to work smartly and more efficiently. Officers who have used it have given very positive feedback on JARVIS. It has freed up their time. They can go and do other things now.
Police cameras. We have now completed the installation of another 10,000 cameras under the PolCam 2.0 programme. In total, we now have nearly 80,000 fully operational Police cameras deployed in a variety of places - public areas, HDB estates, market areas, key neighbourhood nodes. We are not yet done. We will continue. But 80,000 cameras on the ground now. Residents, do they respond by saying that my privacy is being violated? In Singapore, they respond by telling us that it gives them an added measure of security.
Police are pressing ahead with the use of video analytics and these Police cameras, many of them now being installed, are smart cameras that will help us in earlier detection of threats - criminal, security threats - and will obviously allow for faster intervention.
Third, autonomous technology. It has got great potential as a force multiplier. This year, we will be committing more resources into the development of tactical drones and robots. They will be used to support officers when they respond to incidents. Last year, I launched the Police Smartphone. That was with the help of M.A.T.A.R. (Multi-Purpose All Terrain Autonomous Robot), an autonomous patrol robot. M.A.T.A.R. is now in its 3G. It has gone from 1G to 3G quite fast. It will continue to support Police operations.
Today, we will be launching the SkyARC (Sky Aerial Response Command). SkyARC will be deployed in major events and will help us also in locating missing persons in forested terrain.
Later on, a Police presenter will share more about how Police are thinking of deploying UAVs and robots.
2018 has been a tough year from an operational perspective, but it has been a satisfying year in that all the challenges were met. More than met by Police.
Next year, 2020, is going to be a very significant year for the Police. It marks 200 years in which the Police have been in Singapore, and have done what they do well.
The Singapore Police Force has come a long way. I think few organisations in Singapore can claim such a long, unbroken, proud heritage. The Singapore Police Force today, survey after survey, is among the most trusted institutions in Singapore.
That doesn’t come about by accident, it doesn’t come about by a natural sequence of events. It has been possible because of the way the first generation of leadership set out very clearly in their minds that countries are built not just by politicians, but that most importantly for the country to progress, is to build up institutions. Every institution has to be protected, has to be corruption free, has to be built up, has to be remunerated properly - the judiciary, the Police, the SAF, the civil service and a variety of other institutions, including private sector institutions, such as bar associations and medical associations. For all these institutions to work, they need to be supported, they need to have a framework of clear rules, the rule of law has got to be applied, and the right people has to be appointed on clear principles.
There was a big deficit we had in 1965 - the lack of institutions and the lack of people. The biggest achievement is the building up of the institutions. At the political level, there was a political will to build it up and push it through. That is critical but on its own, not sufficient. It has been possible also because capable people were appointed as Commissioners of Police, senior police officers. All the way through, there has been a clear determination to have good quality people across the chain of command and at the ground level.
The capable leadership of the Police is symbolised in some ways in the person of the Commissioner of Police (CP) - successive CPs, and the very strong support of our community partners and stakeholders, together with the commitment and sacrifices made by our volunteers, national servicemen, their families and most importantly, the belief and hard work of generations of officers.
To be a trusted, respected, effective Police Force guarding the security of our nation - that is what made the Police what they are today. So the Police officer who turns up at any place - there is respect, there is generally an acceptance of the Police officer’s right to do what he is doing - to ask the questions, do his work - and to comply with his directions.
With such a proud history, this commitment can continue to be and will be the basic ethos of every Police officer for many generations to come, I hope.