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More support needed for security officers, say industry stakeholders after Roxy Square incident

More support needed for security officers, say industry stakeholders after Roxy Square incident

Screengrabs from a video of the incident circulating online.

SINGAPORE: Industry stakeholders on Thursday (Apr 11) called for more protection and support for security officers, after a video of an incident at Roxy Square last week went viral online. 

Police on Apr 4 said that they were investigating the incident, in which a man was filmed striking a security supervisor in the face at the mall along East Coast Road. 

Regal Security and Fire Management Services later confirmed the victim was one of its employees, Mr Andrew Lim. 

"The recent incident at Roxy Square, involving a private security officer, has led to much public concern and debate," said the Security Association Singapore, Leacov School of Security and the Association of Certified Security Agencies in a joint release. 

"One recurring question has been why Mr Andrew Lim, the security officer in question, was not armed for self-defence," they said, adding that they were "heartened" to see such interest and discussion about the welfare of security officers. 

The stakeholders pointed out how members of the public had suggested that security officers be equipped with protective tools such as batons and lasers, but that these are actually strictly controlled or prohibited in Singapore. 

"Even if security officers were allowed to use such tools to protect themselves, this does not come without personal and legal risk to them," they said. 

MEASURES PROTECTING SECURITY OFFICERS "INADEQUATE" 

Stakeholders raised how the behaviour of security officers is "specially regulated by a code of conduct backed by criminal penalties". 

"Yet it does not accord them the corresponding protection and status in law to empower them to perform their job without fear or favour wherever they are," they said. 

Responding to CNA's queries, SAS general manager Jourdan Sabapathy said that officers have recourse to legal action, such as making a complaint under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

If the actions against the officers are "more egregious", culprits could be liable to prosecution by the Attorney-General's Chambers, he added. 

According to the joint statement from the three stakeholders, POHA only recognises those working in public places as public service workers for the purpose of extra protection. Those who work in non-public sites are only accorded ordinary protection.

Mr Sabapathy said the current measures to protect security officers are “inadequate”.

“Security officers are not statutorily empowered to perform many of their duties. 

"This, combined with the fact that their duties require them to interact with members of the public and to enforce rules, put them in positions of risk, especially when members of the public are unreasonable or aggressive,” he said. 

There are also no industry standards for physical fitness in the hiring of security officers, except that officers above 60 need to be medically examined, he noted.

The Union of Security Employees also said in a statement to CNA that security services in Singapore are traditionally purchased based on "cheap sourcing", leading to low wages for officers. 

"If wages are kept low, officers have to work long hours to use OT (over-time) to increase their incomes. In such an environment, it is onerous to impose on security officers physical fitness requirements or self-defense skills," said the union. 

Heavier penalties for those who abuse security officers would be useful, stakeholders suggested.

SECURITY SUPERVISOR'S RESPONSE "EXEMPLARY"

Security officers are not required to undergo self-defence training, Mr Sabapathy said.

They can, however, prepare themselves for situations involving disorderly conduct through the compulsory WSQ Manage Disorderly Conduct And Threatening Behaviour course.

“To protect them from retaliatory litigation, security officers are trained not to make any physical or violent moves themselves, but to ensure that their actions are witnessed or recorded, and to escalate the case where necessary,” industry stakeholders said in the statement.

Mr Lim had been "exemplary" in following his training during the incident at Roxy Square, they added.

Industry stakeholders said they hoped the incident has provided the public "a greater understanding and sympathy for the challenges and constraints" the officers face every day.

“By the nature of their work, they face personal risks and threats, regardless of where they are deployed. However, our officers are often underappreciated and not respected, even by the very people they are keeping safe,” they said.

“This culture has led to certain individuals thinking they have the right to take out their frustration on our officers, or to insist on getting their way forcefully.”

Additional reporting by Matthew Mohan.

Source: CNA/na(hs)

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