MHA to get tough on people who abuse security officers

Security officers manning the entrance at Eight Riversuites condominium in November. Outrage was sparked last Deepavali, when a resident was caught on camera verbally abusing a security guard. ST FILE PHOTO
Security officers manning the entrance at Eight Riversuites condominium in November. Outrage was sparked last Deepavali, when a resident was caught on camera verbally abusing a security guard. ST FILE PHOTO

Ministry looking to amend Act to better protect officers from harassment or abuse

People who abuse and harass private security officers while they are carrying out their duties face the prospect of being charged under new offences the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) plans to legislate.

The ministry is looking at amending the Private Security Industry Act (PSIA) next year with the aim to better protect private security officers from harassment or abuse, it said in a statement yesterday.

These officers play an important role in ensuring the safety and security of the premises to which they are deployed, it noted.

"However, during the course of their work, they can face verbal and sometimes physical abuse. MHA takes a serious view of the harassment and abuse of private security officers," said the ministry.

The move comes in response to several highly publicised reports of security officers being abused last year, and after much lobbying by security associations and unions to better protect them.

Labour MPs Zainal Sapari and Patrick Tay have also advocated for this move in Parliament and on social media.

Outrage was sparked last Deepavali, when a condominium resident was caught on camera verbally abusing a security guard over parking charges.

Security associations and unions lauded the ministry's move.

President of the Association of Certified Security Agencies (ACSA) Robert Wiener said the condominium abuse incident was just the "tip of the iceberg".

"Our people get abused all the time while doing their job," said Mr Wiener, adding that he was very pleased to hear of the changes.

About 30 per cent of security officers have experienced abuse while at work, according to a survey of 1,549 officers between November and February, commissioned by the Union of Security Employees (USE).

Fifty-six per cent of the officers surveyed said they experienced abuse at least once a month. Another 48 per cent said they faced abuse from the general public.

  • 30%

    Of security officers experienced abuse while on the job, according to a survey of 1,549 officers.

    56%

    Experienced abuse at least once a month.

    48%

    Faced abuse from the general public.

Executive secretary of USE Steve Tan said security officers are prone to abuse, as their jobs often require them to "provoke people", by getting them to abide by the rules of the premises.

"This is their job and if they get abused because of it, that's definitely unfair to them," said Mr Tan.

He added that enhanced protection is welcome, as it sends a strong signal that abuse is not allowed.

The Security Industry Council (SIC) said protecting the welfare and dignity of security officers is of paramount importance.

"This is especially so as officers not only perform day-to-day safety and protection duties, but also play a crucial front-line role in national emergencies such as amidst stepped-up Covid-19 measures," said the SIC in a statement. The council represents three security associations: USE, ACSA, and the Security Association Singapore.

  • Revised grading framework for security agencies

  • In the light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, security agencies will not be required to participate in this year's security agencies grading exercise (Sage), said the Ministry of Home Affairs in a statement yesterday. Their grade from last year is to be extended till Dec 31 next year.

    However, firms can still volunteer to participate in the grading exercise, and the cut-off points from last year's assessment will be used for grading purposes.

    The ministry and the police have also reviewed this grading exercise with industry partners and a tripartite task force formed last year has agreed that future assessments will be on a pass or fail basis, instead of the current grading system of A, B, C and D.

    Security agencies will go through the assessment closer to the licence renewal date and must pass the test for their licences to be renewed. This is unlike the current arrangement where all agencies undergo assessment at the same time.

    Firms will need to demonstrate "substantive security capabilities and outcomes", and the new framework will include some voluntary modules which could be taken so the agencies can showcase their capabilities.

    Companies that meet those higher standards can renew their licences for two years, up from one year currently. Accordingly, these agencies will need to undergo assessment only once every two years.

    Mr Raj Joshua Thomas, president of Security Association Singapore, said this competency-based system is more transparent, as buyers of security services can immediately identify the competencies of the different firms, instead of looking at a single grade to determine the firm's capabilities.

    More details will be announced by early next year, said the ministry.

    Cara Wong

SIC said: "The impending amendments to the PSIA in 2021 is a step in the right direction to minimise any form of abuse to our officers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2020, with the headline 'MHA to get tough on people who abuse security officers'. Print Edition | Subscribe