SINGAPORE: One of the police officers wrongly accused of bullying an 85-year-old woman in Yishun said on Friday (May 28) he is happy that the truth has come out.
Station Inspector (SI) Jeff Lim, 45, a deputy team leader with Yishun South Neighbourhood Police Centre, said it was unfair that the video, which was circulating on social media, was captioned with false allegations against the officers.
"Nevertheless, we received support from our management, especially from our team. So, I'm glad that the truth is out."
This comes after an Instagram user had posted a story alleging that police officers had "clustered" around an elderly woman who was not wearing a mask and continued to "tell her off" even though she had put her mask on.
The incident took place on May 17.
The police clarified on May 19 that these allegations were untrue, noting that officers helped the woman, who has dementia, find her way home. Officers also bought food for the woman, police said.
Socio-political website The Online Citizen then posted a YouTube video on Tuesday alleging inaccuracies in the police clarification.
The video questioned SI Lim's tone of voice when speaking to the elderly woman, and featured an interview with the woman who claimed that officers did not buy her food.
On the same day, police released another statement saying it stood by the clarifications, and took the unusual step of releasing footage from SI Lim's body-worn camera to prove its version of events.
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READ: Shanmugam rejects The Online Citizen's application to cancel POFMA order on police bullying allegations
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday also spoke to defend the police, calling TOC's video "despicable". Mr Shanmugam said TOC's actions were "quite malicious to attack the police", and urged the website to spare its "toxicity" when it comes to police officers who were just doing their job.
When asked if the allegations had affected his morale, SI Lim said he initially felt "sad" and that the whole incident was "wrong".
"But then this whole incident shouldn't stop us from helping members of the public and to carry out our duties," he said.
SI Lim said he did not realise that someone was filming his exchange with the elderly woman and her helper, although he accepted that this has become part of the job.
"I am aware that people can take videos of us," he said. "As long as we are doing the right thing, then it's okay that they can take a video."
As for people who might have lost trust in the police after watching the Instagram story, SI Lim advised them "not to believe everything they see on the Internet".
"They themselves have to find out the truth," he added. "For those who are posting the videos, I hope that they will post responsibly and post something that is factual."
SI Lim said he harboured no ill-will towards TOC for posting another video revisiting the allegations, highlighting that he "cannot control their emotions".
"Whatever they want to say or think, I cannot control that," he said.
WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY
On May 17, a member of the public had called the police regarding a woman who appeared to be lost and did not have a mask on, SI Lim said.
Two officers went to the scene first. SI Lim and his team leader also responded to the call after hearing it on the radio.
"I felt that we needed more people to go down to search for the old lady's residential address," he said.
READ: POFMA Office instructed to issue correction directions to several parties over posts alleging police bullying
When asked if four officers attending to an elderly woman in a straightforward case would have given the impression of excessiveness, SI Lim said that his focus was on helping her.
"I'm not worried about all that ... Because the concern is on the old lady; we are trying to help her," he said, adding that having more officers on the scene would help resolve the situation quickly.
At the scene, SI Lim noticed that the woman could not give her name or her address - the first signs that she might have dementia. A passer-by then told the officers where the woman lived, down to her block and floor.
Two of SI Lim's colleagues went to that block and floor to find out where the woman lived. They went door to door and showed a photograph of her, eventually finding the unit and asking the woman's helper to follow them.
With the helper reunited with the woman, SI Lim told the helper to remind the woman to wear a mask outside.
His tone of voice here was one of the points of contention in the Instagram story and the TOC video, with the parties alleging that he had raised his voice, giving the impression of bullying.
"I did not raise my voice in that incident," SI Lim said. "Actually I was explaining to the helper that the aunty is not wearing a mask, and I advised the helper to remind the aunty to wear a mask whenever she went out."
SI Lim said he sat with the elderly woman for a chat and found out that she was waiting for some friends. He also was concerned that she might have been hungry and offered to buy her food.
"She requested for two chicken wings with chilli," he said, adding that he paid more than S$2 out his own pocket. "That's what I bought for her."
SI Lim said then offered to go back with her, but she refused.
In the TOC video, the elderly woman denied that SI Lim had bought her food, but his body-worn camera footage proved otherwise.
"I did not take it personally," SI Lim added, referring to the woman's comments to TOC. "I understand that she has dementia, and she might not remember what happened (the day before)."
SI Lim said it is not the first that time he bought food for the elderly while on the job.
"It is just really from my heart," he added. "It's just a human helping a human."
DID NOT EXPECT INCIDENT TO BLOW UP
SI Lim said he did not expect the incident to blow up, explaining that he had treated it like any other case of helping someone find their way home.
The officer, who has been with the police for 23 years, advised colleagues who encounter such incidents to not "feel bad and just continue with their daily work to (solve) crimes and help others".
"We just try to help those who are in need and try to put a smile on their face," said SI Lim, who is part of a group of officers who frequently raise funds and donate essentials for the needy locally and abroad.
"Like what I said, we are just humans helping humans."