SINGAPORE: Measures have been unveiled to help the police step up their counter-terrorism efforts in light of recent global terror attacks.
The Police Coast Guard's (PCG) new Emergency Response Force (ERF) has been set up to be part of a first response wave in an armed attack in Singapore’s waters and offshore islands.
The ERF, which will be operational from June 2017, is identical to the land divisions’ Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) introduced last year - which are specialist officers trained to respond to armed threats, police said during the Singapore Police Force’s annual work plan seminar on Friday (Apr 7).
These officers will be able to respond to scenarios such as a boat charging towards a target, a routine boarding operation that escalates into a situation involving people carrying weapons and situations when there are gunmen on board a vessel or on any of the offshore islands.
Current PCG officers are able to act in such situations as well, police said, but the additional training in counter-assault skills will give ERF officers an edge.
Emergency Response Force officers tackling a gunman as part of a mock-up. (Photo: Rachel Phua)
In addition to the current PCG training routine, which trains PCG officers in “boat operations and maritime law enforcement”, the police said that those preparing to become ERF officers will need to learn additional skills such as tactical firearm skills to enable them to better respond to armed incidents out at sea.
"With the formation of the Emergency Response Force, the Police Coast Guard will be better able to respond, engage and neutralise heavily armed threats in the maritime domain. This will augment the Police Coast Guard's operational capabilities and allow it to continue to safeguard our waters,” said Ang Eng Seng, the head of operations and security of the PCG.
ERF training started in December 2016, Mr Ang added, and all PCG frontline officers will be trained to become ERF officers. Every PCG patrol boat will have ERF-trained officers on board by June 2017.
The ERF officers will use equipment similar to what current PCG officers have, which includes ballistic helmets and HK MP5 sub-machine guns, but ERF officers will be equipped with additional knee and elbow paddings and guards to aid them in their tactical movements along narrow corridor and cabins within the vessels.
Their sub-machine guns also carry optics and lights to help them take more accurate shots to neutralise the enemies, the police said.
The extra training for PCG officers is a response to terror threats that have risen to “unprecedented levels”, said the police, citing the recent attacks in London and France as examples.
In a speech at the event, Minster for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said that fighting terrorism is also a long-term challenge, and efforts to fight it are all the more important today because of the security environment we are in.
"In the first three months of this year, you had attacks in Istanbul, Quebec, London, to name a few. And the nature of the threats we spoke about, returning fighters, self-radicalised individuals ... that's the nature of the world we live in, the nature of the region we are in. So enforcement challenges in the region continue to be high, and we have to be prepared to respond," he said.
MORE SPF OFFICERS, CHANGE OF FIREARMS
Besides PCGs, there will be more ERT officers and rapid deployment troops (RDTs) on the ground this year. The RDTs serve as the second wave of response and support the ERT officers, making use of motorcycles to manoeuvre through traffic and reach incident sites quickly.
The police force will also be forming new Police National Service public order troops under its Special Operations Command. These troops will provide support during national emergencies and major security events and will comprise operationally ready NSmen who have served as full-time troopers.
During their reservist stint, these NSmen will be recalled for training and anti-crime patrols, and can also be deployed to support the police's tactical troops for public order operations.
Plans to replace frontline officers’ firearms are also underway. Officers will be equipped with pistols, which are able to provide greater ammunition and firepower, in line with the need to tackle the heightened terrorism threat. Currently, officers are armed with revolvers.
Police officers learning to shoot with pistols. All police officers will be using pistols in due course - they are currently armed with revolvers. (Photo: Rachel Phua)
The police force aims to equip all regular officers with pistols by 2022, and some frontline officers have already started using the new weapons since Apr 1.
MORE CAMERAS TO BE INSTALLED
According to a factsheet issued to the media, the police will install more police cameras in public areas under its PolCam initiative. A total of 3,100 cameras will be installed by the end of this year in areas including town centres, neighbourhood centres, hawker centres and linkways leading to transportation nodes such as MRT stations and bus interchanges.
About 11,000 more cameras will be progressively installed over the next few years at 2,500 locations islandwide.
The initiative was first introduced in 2012 and since then, more than 65,000 cameras in all 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks have been installed.
In addition, 150 police patrol vehicles will be equipped with an in-vehicle video recording system by July 2017. The recording system will able to stream live videos to the Police Operations Command Centre, with automated number plate recognition systems to help the police identify vehicles of interest quickly.