Special Operations Command (SOC) officers on the ground have the discretion to use tear gas, but in the case of a planned event, they are required to inform their higher management.
Testifying on the 10th day of the public hearings into the riot, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) David Scott Arul, the commander of the SOC forces on Dec 8 last year, told the committee that while he had sought clearance to use CS gas - or tear gas - from the Acting Commissioner of Police that night, officers could deploy the gas "if there is a threat to life".
He was responding to Committee of Inquiry panel member and former police commissioner Tee Tua Ba, who questioned the need for approval from higher-ups who were not on the ground, especially when "every second counts" during an emergency.
While DAC Arul agreed with Mr Tee that it was "important that the officer on the ground can make the call, if required", management should be kept apprised if the use of tear gas could be anticipated. This is because the smoke could spread beyond the immediate area of use because of wind. Even though the use of tear gas was approved by management that night, DAC Arul said he did not allow SOC officers to use tear gas grenades because the area was built-up and there were innocent bystanders in the vicinity.