Explain protocol for random checks

A view of Aljunied Mrt.
A view of Aljunied Mrt. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

Recently, I was stopped for a random check by the Public Transport Security Command officers outside Aljunied MRT station.

An officer asked me for a form of identification, while another officer asked to check my wallet.

While inspecting the contents of my wallet, the officer asked if I had "anything to declare". As I did not know what the check was for, I asked him: "What are the things I should be declaring?"

Without answering, he continued to run through the wallet, exposing its contents in full view of the public.

A third officer then asked to check my waist-pouch. Once I had my wallet back, I was asked again if I had anything to declare. Once again, I asked him what the items were that I had to declare, and again received no reply.

Nevertheless, I opened my waist-pouch and the third officer reached in to remove its contents, asking me to name every item he fished out - again in full view and within earshot of the public.

Throughout, I was distracted by the simultaneous actions and words of the three officers, flustered by my possessions being exposed in public and intimidated by the number of armed men surrounding me.

While I understand the reasoning behind random checks, I am upset by the manner in which mine was conducted.

First, the aim of the spot check was not made known to me.

This appeared particularly stark when I was unable to answer repeated questions of whether I had anything to declare.

Second, the requests by the three officers to examine my identity card, wallet and waist-pouch simultaneously suggest a lack of thoughtfulness in the procedure.

I am also curious about whether it is appropriate for officers to take my wallet from my hands and search its contents, as well as that of my waist-pouch.

Is it also proper for them to expose my private belongings - the amount of cash I had, my credit cards, religious articles and other personal items - in public?

The relevant authorities need to address the above issues and explain the respective protocols so that public transport users can better understand such a situation should they find themselves in it and feel safe, assured and secure.

Carl Tay

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Explain protocol for random checks'. Print Edition | Subscribe