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DPM Teo outlines security enhancements in response to Little India COI report

Among the changes already in the pipeline: Emergency response procedures, police equipping, more SOC officers, management of foreign worker congregation areas, said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament.

SINGAPORE: The Government accepts all of the recommendations made the Committee of Inquiry (COI) report into the Little India riot, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament on Monday (July 8), as he detailed the security-related action being taken following the Dec 8, 2013 incident.

The COI, in its report released on June 30, made eight recommendations covering two broad areas: Measures to strengthen the Home Team and measures to manage foreign worker congregation areas.

"The COI’s recommendations address weaknesses and areas that we have to improve on, provide validation of several of our ongoing plans which address the COI’s concerns, sharpen our focus on what the priorities should be, and provide impetus for us to do more in certain areas and to implement them sooner. We have also not waited for the COI’s report to act, but have implemented various improvements since the riot on Dec 8, some in the days immediately following the incident," said Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security.

"POLICE DID THE BEST THEY COULD"

While Mr Teo acknowledged that improvements were needed for emergency response protocols, he stressed that "commanders and officers that night did the best they could in the circumstances they faced, with the information they had on hand".

Said the Deputy Prime Minister: "On the night of the riot, as commanders and officers arrived at the scene as quickly as they could, they faced a highly-charged and rapidly evolving situation. They made their decisions in the heat of the action, and under time pressure, based on the information they had available. The commanders and officers that night did not have the benefit of hindsight.

"Their decisions and actions have thus to be evaluated in that context."

IMPROVING POLICING CAPABILITIES

In response to the COI's recommendation to improve Command, Control and Communications, or C3 capabilities, to help ground officers build a better picture of the ground situation, especially in rapidly changing scenarios, Mr Teo outlined the following measures in place or in the pipeline:

  • New, better equipped Combined Operations Room will be ready by end-2014

  • New Police C3 system - featuring more advanced communications, imaging and mobile computing technology - targeted to enter service in end 2014

  • The police have also started trials for body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras. All fast response cars will be equipped with cameras by end-2015

  • Police are studying how its Combined Operations Room can make good use of publicly posted messages and images on the Internet or social media, to clarify or dispel rumours or untruths

  • 300 officers to be added to Special Operations Command (SOC) over next two to three years, doubling its current strength of deployable front-line troopers

  • To continue to attract and retain good officers, the police have enhanced its employment terms and provided more upgrading and education opportunities for inservice officers

  • SPF has also raised the retirement age of uniformed officers from 50 to 55 and re-employed more retired officers

  • More civilian officers have been recruited to take on specialised roles, for example in forensics and cyber-crime

  • Approval process for activating the SOC has been shortened, with Division Commanders now able to activate the first SOC troops while alerting Police Headquarters at the same time

MANAGING FOREIGN WORKER CONGREGATION AREAS

Mr Teo said that Government agencies will continue to improve infrastructure and enhance safety in Little India, including adding additional lighting, railings and shelters. The timing of bus services is also being relooked to minimise crowding, he said, while some roads - including Lembu Road and Campbell Lane - will be closed to cars. Two new traffic lights are also being installed along Serangoon Road to smoothen pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow.

More police officers have also been deployed to manage anti-social behavior, while the number of police cameras in Little India has more than doubled since the riot, from 113 to 250, with another 88 cameras to be installed by December 2015.

Some of these measures are also being extended in other foreign worker congregation areas, such as Geylang, Mr Teo said.

On alcohol, which the COI had identified as a major contributory factor to the riot, the Deputy Prime Minister said legislation would be introduced within the next six months, before the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act expires in March 2015, following a consultation with the public and key stakeholders such as liquor retail outlets and residents.


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