Engaging the rioters in Little India would have been very risky for police officers because they were outnumbered and did not have the training nor the protection troops from the Special Operations Command (SOC) did, the Committee of Inquiry into the Dec 8 violence was told on Wednesday.
"I am of the view that there would have been a risk to these officers... just because of their numbers," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (DAC) David Scott Arul, who is also deputy commander of the SOC, and the senior officer in charge of the tactical troops during the riot. "When SOC comes in, we come in with larger numbers," he said.
"The second key thing is the level of training," he added.
SOC officers, with the tactical training they have received, know what to do in a public order incident, he noted. They know how to defend themselves and are able to take steps needed to disperse a crowd.
"The other issue is the level of protection," DAC Arul said, after showing the committee the body armour and tactical helmet and equipment SOC officers are kitted with.
"As I have shown you here, they are very well protected (and the) projectiles (thrown by rioters) are not a major threat."
He was also concerned that frontline officers moving in to engage the rioters would not be able to escalate the force being applied against the mob as they were only armed with shields. The use of firearms would be the next stage, he said.
"With SOC, we have a lot of intermediate options," DAC Arul said. "We are trained with our batons... designed for riot control (and) the most important intermediate option we have is the CS gas (commonly known as tear gas), which allows us to disperse (a crowd)."