Shanmugam defends police, calls TOC video unethical, cynical, ‘despicable’

Body-worn camera footage released by the police shows a police officer buying the woman a packet of food from a nearby stall and not taunting or reprimanding her. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE/FACEBOOK, SCREENGRAB FROM DE LONG/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The police have released two clips of body-worn camera footage from an incident in Yishun involving officers who had engaged an elderly woman who was not wearing a mask in public.

The footage shows a police officer buying the woman a packet of food from a nearby stall and not taunting or reprimanding her, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in a statement on Tuesday (May 25) evening.

Instead, the officer was telling the woman's domestic helper to remind her to wear a mask when she is out, said the police.

This comes after The Online Citizen Asia (TOC) had posted a video on its Facebook page just after midnight on Tuesday, featuring an interview with the woman in which she denied police officers had bought her food.

The video also claimed that audio from the incident, which took place on the evening of May 17 and was uploaded online by Instagram user @nichology, showed the police officer had reprimanded the woman for not wearing a mask.

The police had previously issued a clarification on the incident on May 19.

The fake news law was also invoked to issue a correction direction to TOC and other sites that repeated the claims.

Speaking to the media at the police headquarters at New Phoenix Park on Tuesday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said TOC's latest video was a cynical, unethical and malicious attack on the police, adding that TOC took advantage of an old woman with dementia.

He said: "People who have dealt with people with dementia will know that you can sometimes get them to say many things they will not remember... You interview her, this old lady, try and get her to say things, I would say this is despicable."

Mr Shanmugam said the police are still considering whether to take further action against TOC. He added that TOC should keep to politics when attacking the Government and leave police officers out.

"TOC attacks the Government with its team of Malaysian writers, that's regular. But I would say keep your malice and venom to politics," he said.

"We can deal with it. Don't bring that toxicity to attack police officers, spare them. They're just doing their jobs."

In their statement, the police said they had spoken to the daughter of the elderly woman, who confirmed that her mother has dementia and may not remember the incident clearly.

The police added that while the woman's daughter did not want to be interviewed by the media, she had expressed disappointment that TOC interviewed her mother and posted the video online without attempting to understand her condition.

The police said that they had decided to release relevant portions of the body-worn camera footage after discussions with the woman's daughter, although this was not their usual practice.

A spokesman said: "The police generally do not release such body-worn camera footage as the information is confidential."

Mr Shanmugam said he had instructed the police to release the footage to set out the facts as the video circulating online had poor audio quality and did not provide the full picture.

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Urging people to watch the footage for themselves, he said: "You can see, it is clear."

The minister said body-worn camera footage is considered evidence and can be part of investigative processes if an offence is committed.

He added: "The police have the power to release it, but you have to look at the circumstances and make sure that nobody is prejudiced by such a release and investigations are not prejudiced. There must be a good reason for releasing it."

The minister also defended the two officers in the incident as long-serving members of the SPF, adding that they and other officers have been serving Singaporeans, in the frontline in the Covid-19 fight, while also upholding law and order.

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