Published: 07 April 2017
Partners and friends
1. I want to start by recognising the outstanding contributions of the Singapore Police Force over the years. If you look at what has been achieved, you have worked hard to keep us safe and secure. If you look at the statistics, overall crime has continued to fall. It fell in the last year. You look at Gallup's Law and Order ranking, again Singapore is ranked number one. I think you ought to congratulate yourself.
2. Public confidence in the Police force is extremely high. This is really the result of the extraordinary work that you put in day in, day out, everyone on the ground. You saw from the video, officers sacrifice their holidays, weekends, National Day, F1, New Year countdown celebrations, just to name a few. All these times, the officers are on the ground, extra deployments, working very hard for Singaporeans and to keep Singapore safe. The courage, the skill, the determination, the dedication, it deserves the respect and gratitude from everyone, every Singaporean and so we say a big thank you to every officer.
3. In the more difficult security environment that we are having, your efforts are becoming even more important. Last year, I talked about four key challenges. Terrorism, the criminal threats that are evolving, the higher public expectations and of course the manpower constraints. Those have not gone away, they are there, they remain challenges, and we try and deal with them. These are long-term challenges.
4. Today, I would like to touch on three areas. One of which is the same, terrorism. You have heard me speak about it several times so I will not go into it in details, so just an overview. Second, public trust, and third, our National Servicemen.
5. Now let me start with terrorism. In the first three months of this year, you have had attacks in Istanbul, Quebec, London, to name a few. The nature of the threats that we have spoken about, returning fighters, self-radicalised individuals. Just now, on the news, I saw another terror plot foiled in Jakarta, planned by someone who was on death row. So he was in prison, he was on the death row and he planned a major attack and they just managed to stop it.
6. That is the nature of the world we live in and the nature of the region we are in. Enforcement challenges in the region continue to be high. We have to be prepared to respond. It is very difficult to keep telling people you have to be prepared to respond when nothing happens. Hopefully nothing happens but we continue to be prepared.
7. Police have continued to build new capabilities and leverage new technology. There are three pillars on which that is built. First, is a robust emergency response. Second, we have talked about it, community partnership and third, surveillance and sense-making. You need all three to work together.
8. On emergency response, at the recent budget debate, I announced that the Police will train and equip all Police officers with pistols, starting from this month. I was speaking with the Commissioner of Police about transformation. Transforming the force, transforming the Home Team. We have to show some results. As you can see, we have rolled out the Emergency Response Teams (ERTs), the quick response teams, the Rapid Deployment Troops (RDTs) and pistols. Later this year, the smart mobile phones, so people will see that happening.
9. We will also show results for the entire Home Team transformation. We will commission more ERTs this year. We will also train the Police Coast Guards officers in counter-assault skills. We will equip them with sub-machine guns and carbines so that they will be able to respond to terrorist attacks and threats in our waters. They will be known as the Emergency Response Force (ERF). They will start patrolling with these weaponry starting from June this year.
10. The Police will also train more specialist officers including RDTs to respond swiftly in case there are jams or the roads are clogged. They have motorbikes and they are expected to be in place faster. They are trained in tactical manoeuvres to negotiate heavy traffic to reach any incident site. That will add to the Police's capability to respond swiftly.
11. About terrorism, we have talked about it. I think most people understand the context. It is ever present. Unfortunately, it is getting worse. Let me move on to community partnership.
12. We will need to strengthen the partnership with the community in times of crisis. SGSecure, our signature programme, has now reached out to more than 60,000 households. The SGSecure app is now in more than 380,000 mobile devices, all within a year, so there is tremendous effort on the ground.
13. So this year, Home Team officers, including the Police, will build on that progress, reach out to more people through more house visits, school talks, seminars, community events, and of course, exercises.
14. And we will need the help of our volunteers in that effort. The Police will also take steps this year to organise our volunteers, work with them, and train them so that they know what roles they can play in an emergency. We will integrate all existing community watch groups under a common scheme, a larger umbrella and that will be rolled out by early next year.
15. So as you see, we have talked about it a couple of years ago, step by step, whether it is on the emergency response side, whether on the community partnership side, it cannot just be talk. It has to be delivered on the ground. We have concrete results, but we got to keep pushing very hard. We cannot slacken on this. So far, more than 60,000 households, 380,000 mobile devices, a very substantial number of people reached, exercises, number of troops on the ground, equipped (example pistols), other equipment rolled out. We have got to keep pushing and keep integrating across the Home Team, where we can.
16. We have seen some results, good results, in our enhanced community outreach efforts. Last year, we announced the new i-Witness function within the Police@SG mobile app at 71999.
17. It is really the Police's effort to crowdsource and leverage mobile technology. Since that roll out, the Police have received more than 6,000 i-Witness reports. Various crimes, various suspicions reported. The photographs have been sent, videos have been sent, and that has indeed helped the Police. In Singapore, one of the key factors in our crime fighting ability is people do not realise how many crimes get solved by people reporting to us in the first place and helping us quite substantially. The i-Witness submissions have supported Traffic Police in looking at more than 300 traffic violations and 160 accident related cases, for example. So that is community partnership. Again I am keeping it short because I think you understand the context.
Surveillance and Sense-Making
18. Third is our surveillance and sense-making. This is a key pillar in our counter terrorism strategy.
19. More than 10,000 blocks have been covered, with 65,000 Police cameras across all HDB estates. By the end of this year, we will roll out more than 3,000 Police cameras, this is PolCam 2.0. The first part was PolCam 1.0. We are choosing town centres, neighbourhood centres, hawker centres, markets, covered link ways. We identified the key areas first, and then we will roll it out to other places in the succeeding years.
20. These cameras will be equipped to detect abnormalities and they will have analytics. So they move along the continuum of being smart cameras.
21. We have also installed in-vehicle video recording for more than 250 patrol vehicles. They are capable of streaming live videos through the POCC, Police Operations Command Centre.
22. By middle of this year, another 150 vehicles will be fitted with that, making a total of 450 patrol vehicles. They will also have the ability for automated number plate recognition, so immediately, Police will be able to identify vehicles of interest. That will give us the ability to recognise potential risk situations. PolCam 2.0, the in-vehicle videos, really give us the sense-making ability, so we are able to respond faster.
23. We have to make sure that the rest of the Home Team's resources and capabilities are able to be brought in together with the Police to really solve situations, deal with crime. And that is the new Home Team Operations Centre (HTOC).
24. HTOC is really a key approach on this front. When we talk about Home Team transformation, beyond being a concept, what is it, how do you make sure that the different Home Team departments come together and work together?
25. So this year, as part of that concept, SCDF, ICA and CNB officers will co-locate with the POCC.
26. Since the beginning of this year, the Police have also deployed experienced investigators at the POCC to coordinate better between investigations and operations. That is going to represent our Home Team operational model to improve communications and collaborations across all Home Team agencies and leverage the data that is available across Home Team agencies. So that is available to a central pool comprising the different agencies, for us to use it as we need it immediately, hopefully in real time. So this will enhance our ability to deal with front line situations.
27. With these three pillars, let me talk about public trust. We cannot do what we do without a very substantial amount of public confidence and trust that the Singapore Police Force enjoys because if we look at the number of officers, and the ratio of officers to the population, we are extremely lean compared with any city of comparable size. But we are able to do what we do because by and large, Singaporeans have been law abiding. The rule of law is strong, the framework is there. There is a certain understanding in people's minds. It is not that we are different from other people. Over a period of time, what has sunk into our culture is that first, if you do something wrong, there is a very high likelihood that you will get caught. And second, if you get caught and you are wrong, there is a very high likelihood that you will be found guilty and you will face the consequences. So given that framework, there is a culture that has developed, certainly of law and order and that has helped us and has helped the Police to be really seen as a friend of the public. The man in blue is someone whom you can approach, can talk to, he is on your side. There is no divide. And that is important. It is extremely important. Because our officers face the public every day, day in day out. So a strong amount of respect, trust with the public is extremely vital.
28. I have shared this in Parliament, and elsewhere, about the recent public perception survey that was done about the force. 93 per cent of Singaporeans felt safe walking home or walking in their neighbourhoods at night. Now, how many places in the world can you say 93 per cent say they can walk alone at night and feel safe? It is a gender neutral survey so women feel the same way as well. 92 per cent felt that the Police have done well in dealing with crimes. 91 per cent felt that the Police would be effective in maintaining law and order. And really, the confidence level in the Police force at 90 percent is something that I think most Police forces in the world would give an arm and a leg for, right? So it is tremendous.
29. The key factor behind this, behind this high trust that people have in the Police force is really the intense commitment, dedication and integrity of our officers. I am sometimes asked in Parliament, are all your Police officers angels? No, they are not all angels, they are human beings. But the system is clean, the system values integrity, and the system punishes those who stray. And therefore, as a whole, the people know they can trust the Police. That is why the public through Parliament has been content, has been agreeable, to give very substantial discretionary powers to the Police force.
30. And we have to continuously strive to maintain and deepen that trust between the public and the Police.
False allegations against the Police
31. When there are allegations made against the Police, and as I said recently in Parliament, they fall into three categories. They may simply be complaints, with difference of viewpoints, and we will look at it. This person has his point of view, he is unhappy, the Police officer has his point of view, you cannot say either is wrong, you leave it at that. Second, the complaint may well be merited. If it is merited, people know action will be taken. Depending on the nature of the infraction, it will either be a disciplinary matter, or as not infrequently, you see in the newspapers, it will go to Court. And if it goes to Court, the Police officer faces a higher sanction than an ordinary citizen, because he is a uniformed officer, having the trust of the people. And so we always make sure it gets publicity. It is not by coincidence that these cases become public. Two, the sentences are enhanced. People know that.
32. Third category of complaints - completely false, made up, trumped up, to put Police in a bad light. That we cannot tolerate and we should not tolerate. We have generally taken the approach of letting people make the allegations and sometimes we respond, sometimes we do not. When we have cases where people say five officers went to interrogate a young boy and effectively led him to his death, or more recently, that police officers had accused a wheelchair bound man of motorcycle theft. I mean it is designed to make serious allegations, make people angry with the Police force and try to weaken the morale of the police force, because every day you get hit with these sorts of allegations. That, I personally take very strong objection to. It is not my intention to allow such attacks. My intention is that we will do something about it. We have responded but I think we have to go further. I have asked Ministry HQ to look at what legislative options there are, because if someone makes an accusation, maliciously, knowing that it is false, and attacks a public institution like the Police force, he is doing Singapore a lot of harm, he is seeking to undermine the Police force, he is seeking to undermine the morale of the Police officers. I will not allow that.
33. Let me now touch on National Service.
34. Our record of safety and security would not be possible without the contributions of our national servicemen. They wear the same uniform, they do the same duties, so nowadays people do not know the difference between a national servicemen and a regular Police officer. It is good to acknowledge and pay tribute to our NSmen and encourage the Police to continue to deepen the policing capabilities of our NSmen. It is timely to recognise and acknowledge that as this year is the 50th year of National Service. Over the past 50 years, our NSmen have contributed greatly to the safety and security of Singapore. If you look at what they do in the Police force, they assist in patrols and investigations, they protect key installations, and do much more. Last year when I went to Hari Raya in Geylang, the entire operations for the week in terms of patrolling and rosters were all done by NS officers and they take pride in doing that, and in doing that well. They lead their men. They are tested, reliable, deployable and have a broad range of skills both within the force and outside.
35. So we thank them for their devotion to duty, their sacrifice, and their outstanding service to the nation. In conjunction with that, MHA will have a series of events this year to commemorate NS50 and the contributions of our servicemen.
36. A key item, perhaps the most key item on the list, is the Home Team Show and Festival. This will be held from 3-7 May at the Sports Hub. This festival is open to all and will feature a wide variety of exhibitions and activities for the whole family. The highlight is a Gala Show on the 6th of May, with parades and performances with the President as our Guest-of-Honour. It is shaping up to be a very significant event and we are putting in a fair bit of effort and also to get the message out. First to our officers, our NSmen and then the wider public that there is this event which showcases what we do and we want Singaporeans to come and take part in that.
37. Another event will be a reunion that we are holding at the Old Police Academy and that is taking place on 22nd July. And again, the invitation is open to families of Police officers to learn about the rich heritage that the Police Academy has and this is a rite of passage for all Police officers. These events are being planned and shaped by our own NSmen. They are actively involved in the NS50 Steering Committee. To name one officer, he is DSP(NS) Terence Matthew Choo. He has helped to develop a mobile app that will serve as a one-stop point for the entire Home Team NS community to access all NS50 activities and announcements. He has helped us develop that. I thank him. We hope to see many NSmen and their families join us for these events and the activities.
ProCom and PNSmen Public Order Troop
38. As we celebrate 50 years of national service, we have to also look to the future, and the past as a springboard for the future, and how do we prepare our NSmen for the challenges ahead. We have asked the Police to deploy more NSmen for leadership and specialist roles. They can take on more tasks which were traditionally handled by the regulars.
39. One case in point to illustrate this is the Protective Security Command ("ProCom"). It was established last year. It has the largest group of both Full-time and Operationally-ready NSmen. They perform day-to-day protection of key installations and they are deployed side-by-side with their regular Land Division counterparts at major events, doing the same job.
40. In addition, the Police will also be forming new Public Order Troops under the Special Operations Command, and this will be made up entirely of NSmen. Again, key responsibilities and they can be deployed for major security events and during national emergencies. So the presence, the skill and readiness of ProCom and Public Order Troops will give the Police added capacity and flexibility, if there is a need for a surge.
41. As more of our NSmen become more deeply integrated in police operations, I think it gives our Police force additional capability.
A Force for the Nation
42. Our Police officers have done a wonderful job of keeping Singapore safe and secure and really we ought to congratulate the Commissioner of Police and his team for all of this effort. Thank you.
43. I have no doubt that under your leadership, the Police will continue to transform. Policing strategies and capabilities would be put in place to take advantage of technology in the face of manpower constraints and the Police will continue to be an outstanding force. Thank you.