SINGAPORE - Those who abuse and harass private security officers carrying out their work could be liable under new offences that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is looking into instituting.
MHA said it intends to better protect private security officers from harassment or abuse, and is looking at amending the Private Security Industry Act in 2021.
In a statement on Friday (March 27), MHA said private security officers play an important role in ensuring the safety and security of the premises to which they are deployed.
"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.
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 for 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 and added 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 2019 and February 2020, commissioned by the Union of Security Employees (USE).
56 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.
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 frontline 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.
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.”
MHA is also looking into changing the annual mandatory assessment of security agencies that is conducted by the police and the Manpower Ministry.
In the light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, security agencies will not need to participate in this year's security agency grading exercise (Sage), said the ministry. Their grade from last year is to be extended till Dec 31, 2021.
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 taskforce 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 only closer to their 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 assessment framework will include some voluntary modules which could be taken so the agencies can showcase their capabilities, said the ministry.
Companies who meet those higher standards can renew their license for two years, up from one year currently. Accordingly, these agencies will only need to undergo assessment 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 2021, said the ministry.