Little India Riot: Police say situation did not call for use of service revolvers

Police officers who were tackling the Little India riots on Sunday night did not use their service revolvers because the situation did not call for it, said the police, responding to queries from The Straits Times on Monday.

Addressing some concerns that have been circulating online, a police spokesman said that while the rioters were using metal rods and cement blocks to smash the private bus involved in an earlier accident, at no point was there an "imminent danger" to officers on the ground that warranted deadly force, as the rioters did not attempt to attack policemen with these items.

"All injuries suffered by officers and paramedics were inflicted by projectiles, and not close-range weapons," said the spokesman, adding that firearms would not be discharged "unless absoutely necessary."

The police also addressed the question of why anti-riot equipment, such as tear gas, was not used by officers on the ground. He said that first responders to the scene were frontline officers that did not carry riot gear, and that the initial call was to assist with a traffic accident. Special Operations Command (SOC) was soon activated when the first police officers on scene assessed that the situation had deteriorated, he said.

Officers from 'E' division arrived at about 10pm on Sunday, and were assisted by two troops from SOC to break up the gangs of rioters on Hampshire Rd, Race Course Rd, and near Kerbau Rd.

Additional officers from 'A' division were on the scene at about 10.40pm, and patrolled a loop around Kerbau Rd, Upper Dickson Rd and Veerasamy Rd before rounding back to Serangoon Rd and closing off all entrances to Race Course Rd in order for fire fighters and forensics to do their work, as well as to stop the rioters from regrouping, he said.

Some of the rioters were rounded up trying to return to Race Course Rd, while others were picked up with the help of members of the public who overheard suspects bragging about their involvement in the riots.

The cordon was lifted at about 5am after the forensics team was satisfied that the required evidence was gathered.

Police said 28 men have been arrested so far, with 26 of them to be charged later today.