A new fast-response police unit trained to react swiftly to armed threats across Singapore will be up and running from June to beef up the counter-terrorism strategy.
The Emergency Response Teams (ERTs), which were unveiled yesterday at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition, will be the first wave of responders in the event of a terrorist attack.
Each team comprises four or five officers, who will be the first on the scene to engage and neutralise the attackers. The ERT officers are selected from the six major land divisions, where they will also be based. Equipped with HK MP 5 sub-machine guns and trained in counter-assault skills, they will focus on containing threats quickly while minimising casualties.
The enhanced weapons are now used by the special forces and have more range and ammunition. The ERT officers will also don bullet- resistant helmets and vests.
On a day-to-day basis, the ERT officers will patrol selected public areas, such as shopping centres, as deterrence. That will allow them to be familiar with the areas and work closely with stakeholders in joint response plans.
The move is part of a comprehensive approach to addressing the threat of terrorism by enhancing the security response, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who spoke at the event.
He stressed that the ERTs will "respond faster, more effectively and decisively to attacks".
The enhanced efforts will also include adding about 300 officers to the Special Operations Command (SOC) to form the Rapid Deployment Troops (RDT) as a second wave of response. Officers in the RDT, which will be ready by next July, will be able to hop onto tactical response motorcycles to navigate through traffic gridlocks.
"For all operations within Singapore, the police will take command," said Mr Shanmugam, but depending on the scale and nature of the attack, other agencies may provide support. "For example, in a large-scale attack where additional forces... are needed, the police may call upon the Singapore Armed Forces for its specialised forces such as the Special Operations Task Force to support and reinforce the ERTs and SOC."
Vigilance is also a key pillar of counter-terrorism, and police cameras will be rolled out to places like town centres and bus interchanges from the second half of the year, said Mr Shanmugam, who also outlined the community's role in alerting police to major crises.