New emergency force to patrol Singapore waters

Frontline police officers will soon be equipped with semi-automatic pistols instead of revolvers and the police will be setting up the Emergency Response Force to strengthen Police Coast Guard operations.
Officers from the Police Coast Guard's new Emergency Response Force on board a training vessel that provides a realistic ship-like environment, during a demonstration on Monday.
Officers from the Police Coast Guard's new Emergency Response Force on board a training vessel that provides a realistic ship-like environment, during a demonstration on Monday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Officers will be armed with skills and heavy firepower to tackle terror threats at sea

From June, a new emergency response force (ERF) trained with counter-assault skills and armed with sub-machine guns and carbines to counter terror attacks will patrol Singapore waters.

To improve communications, a Home Team Operations Centre (HTOC) will also co-locate agencies such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Central Narcotics Bureau with the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC) this year.

Ramping up their emergency response capability, police have started to equip regular officers with pistols instead of revolvers as well, starting this month - a switch that was first reported by The Straits Times in February.

These were among plans revealed by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam at the police's annual workplan seminar yesterday at the Singapore Expo.

A panel also discussed the importance of community cohesion and an individual's responsibility in fighting terror, with a survivor of the 2015 Bangkok bomb blast among the three panellists.

 

Each Police Coast Guard patrol boat will soon have ERF-trained officers, ready to respond to incidents such as gunmen being on board a vessel.

Meanwhile, the new HTOC will allow a central pool comprising the different agencies to "leverage the data that is available" for real-time use, said Mr Shanmugam. "Since the beginning of this year, the police have also deployed experienced investigators at the POCC to coordinate better between investigations and operations," he added.

On the front line, by 2022, all regular officers are expected to be equipped with pistols, which have greater firepower and can hold more ammunition than revolvers.

The police are also training more specialist officers such as rapid deployment troops, Mr Shanmugam said yesterday.

These will be the second wave of response supporting land divisions' emergency response teams, by manoeuvring through traffic on motorcycles to reach incident sites.

But emergency response is only one part of fighting terrorism and building capabilities, Mr Shanmugam said, also stressing the need to "strengthen the partnership with the community in times of crisis".

He added that more police cameras will be deployed by the end of the year. Under PolCam 2.0, some 3,100 more cameras will be put in town centres such as Toa Payoh, as well as 50 hawker centres and markets and 700 covered link ways.

"These cameras will be equipped to detect abnormalities, and they will have analytics," said Mr Shanmugam.

By July, another 150 police patrol vehicles will be installed with in-vehicle video recording systems, which can stream live videos to the POCC. The systems have automated number plate recognition capabilities to help police identify vehicles of interest promptly.

The upcoming Home Team Show and Festival and reunion at the Old Police Academy will pay tribute to national servicemen. More NSmen will be deployed for leadership and specialist roles - such as new public order troops for major security events or national emergencies.

But Mr Shanmugam said the police cannot carry out their duties "without a very substantial amount of public confidence", citing a public perception survey last year with 93 per cent of respondents saying they felt safe walking alone at night.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'New emergency force to patrol Singapore waters'. Print Edition | Subscribe