With a lack of auxiliary police officers (APOs) here, foreigners supplement Singaporean personnel to meet security needs, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee yesterday.
But these officers "are properly screened to ensure that they are suitable for security work", he added.
He said careful assessment is made to decide where they are deployed, and this is reviewed "from time to time". He was responding to Ms Sylvia Lim's (Aljunied GRC) concerns about having foreigners work as APOs.
The priority is still to increase the number of Singaporean APOs, who are employed on better terms, said Mr Lee. The Auxiliary Police Forces have stepped up efforts to attract more Singaporeans as well.
Recognising that Singapore's population has been growing, Ms Lim noted that the role of the auxiliary police has "expanded exponentially". While, in the past, they did static guarding of key installations or accompanied cash in transit, they are now in roles that require them to interact with the public, she said.
These could include crowd control, checkpoint security and the policing of liquor control zones.
There are about 7,000 APOs here, according to past reports. These officers can also carry firearms and are allowed to arrest offenders.
Ms Lim's concerns follow confirmation that Certis Cisco obtained approval to recruit officers from Taiwan owing to manpower shortages.
Last December, news reports revealed that the outfit was looking to hire 120 Taiwanese nationals for its force here, with a spokesman confirming that it had been hard to find qualified Malaysians as well.
This marked the first time APOs were to be recruited from a foreign source other than Malaysia.
Ms Lim asked if the shortage would lead to a compromise in recruitment standards.
In response, Mr Lee highlighted that it has not been possible for the Auxiliary Police Forces to recruit only Singaporeans.
He asked: "Do we live with the shortage of APOs, and compromise on overall security where we need to deploy officers?"
Ms Lim also raised the issue of foreign APOs bearing arms, later asking if the authorities have considered issuing less-lethal weapons, such as stun guns, to APOs instead.
Since the 1970s, there have already been Malaysian APOs carrying arms, said Mr Lee.
While there have been "isolated cases" of local or foreign APOs misusing their arms, not giving them weapons may compromise security even more, he said.
These weapons enable them to carry out their tasks and protect installations.
Seow Bei Yi