Spearheading the way in handling prison emergencies

Officers (in red helmet) from the Department of Corrections Thailand evacuating casualties in Operation 'Man Down'.
Officers (in red helmet) from the Department of Corrections Thailand evacuating casualties in Operation 'Man Down'. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Officers (in red helmet) from the Department of Corrections Thailand evacuating casualties in Operation 'Man Down'.
Officers (in red helmet) from the Department of Corrections Thailand evacuating casualties in Operation 'Man Down'. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Officers (in red helmet) from the Department of Corrections Thailand evacuating casualties in Operation 'Man Down'.
Officers (in red helmet) from the Department of Corrections Thailand evacuating casualties in Operation 'Man Down'. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Donning helmets and respirators, a team of five prison officers ran towards two stationary vans, shooting at masked "aggressors".

They were on their way to rescue six colleagues - represented by dummies weighing up to 50kg - who had been ambushed.

The officers were among participants of the five-day Asian Prisons Lockdown Challenge (APLC), in a new event called Operation "Man-down", which simulates an attack during the transportation of a high-risk inmate from the prison to courtroom.

The APLC sees local and overseas correctional agencies pitting their tactical skills and expertise against each other in a friendly competition of mentally and physically challenging scenarios. Officers also shared their best operational practices.

The competitive phase of the event, held in Changi Prison Complex, ended on Thursday (April 21), with the team from the Singapore Prisons Emergency Action Response (Spear) Force clinching first place for Operation "Man-down".

"APLC is a reminder for us that we must always stay competent, to be able to react to any prison emergencies," said Superintendent of Prisons Ang Kien Tiong, chairman of the APLC's organising committee this year".

These include being prepared to deal with riots, although they have not happened before.

"The scenario is designed to (be) based as close to our operational situation as possible," he added. "High-risk escort is one of our daily operational duties of (Singapore Prison Service), so we wanted to create something out of this and test the participants on whether they are able to accomplish their mission."

The challenge also helps to forge strong relationships with the prisons' regional counterparts, he said.

Close to 50 officers from the Singapore Prison Service, Macau Correctional Services Bureau and Department of Corrections Thailand took part in the biennial event this year.

Officers were put through both individual events such as "The Specialist," which required them to navigate obstacles and precision shooting challenges using both lethal and non-lethal weapons, and team events such as "Search and Rescue," where they had to search for casualties in a barricaded environment.

It is the fourth edition of the challenge, and nearly 250 participants representing correctional agencies from six countries including Singapore have taken part since its inception in 2010.

The Spear Force organised the challenge for its regional counterparts after taking part in a similar competition in the United States.

Spear is the Singapore Prison Service's elite team - trained to respond immediately to contain emergency security breaches, and mitigate and resolve unrest within Singapore's 13 prisons and drug rehabilitation centres.

Spear's Staff Sergeant Cleve Mu, 33, who has participated in all four editions of the challenge, said it gets more challenging each year, and more realistic.

First-time participant Chan Sio Pan from the Macau Correctional Services Bureau said being out in the field with fellow corrections officers from different countries and seeing their planning and strategies was a great learning experience, and "really underscores the professionalism, as well as level and intensity of training that we undergo".