New fast response police teams to boost counter-terrorism strategy

The Police Special Tactics and Rescue team reacting to a hostage situation on a bus.ST VIDEO: NG HUIWEN
Officers from the new Emergency Response Teams and the Special Operation Command's Rapid Deployment Troops responding to an armed terrorist attack.ST VIDEO: NG HUIWEN

SINGAPORE - A new fast response police unit trained to react swiftly to armed threats will be formed from June to beef up Singapore's counter terrorism strategy.

These Emergency Response Teams (ERT), which will be based at the six major land division headquarters, will be the Home Team's first wave of response in the event of simultaneous attacks over multiple sites.

They will work in teams of four or five officers. Trained in counter-assault skills and equipped with HK-MP 5 submachine guns, they will focus on containing threats on the ground quickly while minimalising casualties.

These enhanced weapons, which are currently used by the specialist forces, boast increased range, firearm and ammunition. The officers will also don bullet resistant helmets and vests.

On a daily basis, these officers will be seen patrolling in public areas such as shopping centres and theatres as a deterrence measure. They will also engage with building stakeholders to come up with joint response plans.

More officers will also be added to the Special Operations Command to form the Rapid Deployment Troops that will act as a second wave of response. By July next year, they will be able to hop onto Tactical Response Motorcycles to navigate through traffic gridlocks, reducing response time during critical incidents.

These two key initiatives were revealed at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition held at the Home Team Academy on Friday (April 29).

These are part of Singapore's efforts to enhance security measures at all hard and soft targets, as announced in March by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who was the event's guest of honour.

Engaging the community will also be vital in fighting terrorism.

For instance, the new i-Witness function within the Police@SG mobile app will allow the public to submit information, including picture and videos, on major accidents and crises.

In hostage situations where it is unsafe to speak, the public will be able to send necessary information via SMS to 71999, when it is rolled out on May 1.

Public education efforts will be stepped up to better prepare the community on what to do in the event of a terror attack. It includes the key message of "Run, Hide, Tell" that will advise the public to run away from danger, hide from the attackers and tell the authorities about the threat through the various key channels.