Why It Matters

Speed vital to counter terror

From next month, the police will launch fast-response teams with the skills and fire power to tackle armed threats that could emerge in Singapore.

Trained in counter-assault tactics, officers in these Emergency Response Teams will be the first responders to any terror attack.

The November Paris attacks that killed 130 people and left hundreds more injured drove home the need for such forces.

Gunmen and suicide bombers armed with assault weapons struck several locations almost simultaneously, including the Bataclan concert hall. By the time French special forces arrived on the scene, the killings there were effectively over.

That incident underscored the need for a far swifter response to such threats, and a realisation that regular police officers armed with only handguns or revolvers could find themselves outgunned.

Unveiled at the annual Police Workplan Seminar last Friday, the Emergency Response Teams here will be equipped with Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, and wear bullet-resistant vests and helmets.

Each team of four to five officers will be drawn from and based at the six major land divisions.

About 300 officers will be added to form the Rapid Deployment Troops - the second wave to back up the Emergency Response Teams. These special forces will have a wider arsenal of tools and weapons to neutralise threats.

When these forces are set up, and the network of police cameras is expanded to key public areas, the crucial pieces of Singapore's counter-terrorism strategy will be in place.

Yet the police will not be able to tackle the threat without the community's support. That is why the police force has stepped up its crowdsourcing efforts, by launching a new mobile app function and SMS service for people to report potential threats.

Members of the public also need to know what to do in an attack, and an advisory - "Run, hide, tell" - will be disseminated to educate them on how to react.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Speed vital to counter terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe