SINGAPORE - A new emergency response force (ERF) trained with counter-assault skills and armed with sub-machine guns and carbines to counter terror attacks will soon patrol the waters around Singapore.
By June, each Police Coast Guard patrol boat will have ERF-trained officers. They will be ready to respond to incidents such as a boat charging towards a target, or gunmen being on board a vessel for example.
This comes as the police ramps up its emergency response capabilities by starting to equip regular police officers with pistols in April, training more specialists to act against armed threats.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam revealed the new plans at the police's annual workplan seminar on Friday (April 7) at the Singapore Expo.
By 2022, all regular officers are expected to be equipped with pistols, which have greater firepower and capacity for ammunition compared to the revolvers that are currently used.
The specialist officers trained include rapid deployment troops, he said.
They serve as the second wave of response supporting the land divisions' emergency response teams, using motorcycles to rapidly manoeuvre through traffic and reach incident sites.
On Friday, Mr Shanmugam stressed the need to "strengthen the partnership with the community in times of a crisis" as well.
"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," he said.
He also added that more police cameras will be deployed at town centres, neighbourhood centres, hawker centres, markets and covered link ways by the end of this year.
Under PolCam 2.0, some 3,100 more cameras will be put in town centres such as Toa Payoh and Boon Keng, as well as 50 hawker centres and 700 covered link ways - areas with a lot of public traffic.
"These cameras will be equipped to detect abnormalities and they will have analytics," said Mr Shanmugam.
Another 150 police patrol vehicles will be installed with in-vehicle video recording systems, capable of streaming live videos to the police operations command centre (POCC), by July.
The system has incorporated automated number plate recognition systems that will help the police identify vehicles of interest promptly as well.
Meanwhile, the police will form new public order troops under the Special Operations Command, made entirely of national servicemen, for major security events or national emergencies.
But the rest of the Home Team's resources must come together as well, he said, adding that a Home Team Operations Centre will see its agencies such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Central Narcotics Bureau located with the POCC this year.
Mr Shanmugam said that this model will help "improve communication and collaboration across Home Team agencies, and leverage on the data that is available across (the) agencies".
Highlighting the importance of public trust, which is vital for officers to enforce the rule of law effectively, he said attacks on the police have to be dealt with also.
He added that he has asked the authorities to "look at what legislative options there are" to do so, besides responding to allegations against the force.