Police say Yeoh Lam Keong's Facebook post on 'inadequate community policing' is inaccurate

A screengrab of the post on Mr Yeoh Lam Keong written by the Singapore Police Force.
A screengrab of the post on Mr Yeoh Lam Keong written by the Singapore Police Force. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

This story was updated on June 7, 2017.

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Police Force (SPF), in a Facebook post on Tuesday (June 6), said that comments made by Mr Yeoh Lam Keong - in which he raised doubts about community policing in Singapore - were "sweeping" and "inaccurate".

Mr Yeoh, a former chief economist of sovereign wealth fund GIC, had posted on Facebook on Monday that policy decisions had resulted in inadequate community policing in Singapore.

He said this in a post on an article he shared about how falling police numbers have made the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester much more likely.

Mr Yeoh added that "alienation from the police was a big reason for the cause and poor handling of the riots in Little India. Alcohol is just a convenient scapegoat".

In response, the SPF said that Mr Yeoh's post showed "a clear lack of understanding" of what happened during the Little India riot in Singapore in 2013 and "an ignorance of our community policing efforts".

The SPF highlighted how a fatal traffic accident had been established as the main cause of the riot by a Committee of Inquiry convened to look into what happened. Alcohol was also found to be a "major contributory factor" in the riot. This is contrary to what Mr Yeoh had deemed a "convenient scapegoat", said the SPF.

The SPF also said that community-based policing has always been a key strategy in its efforts to keep Singapore safe and secure. The Community Policing System (COPS) was launched in May 2012 to bring police officers closer to the community and strengthen their presence on the ground.

Daily engagement and house visits by police officers in neighbourhoods have also resulted in strong links with community stakeholders in the bid to tackle crime. Since April 2015, COPS has been adopted by all Neighbourhood Police Centres and become an integral part of policing strategy.

The Government also launched the SGSecure movement in September 2016 as a community response to the increasing security threats facing nations worldwide. Various initiatives have been rolled out to engage the public, such as using the SGSecure app to report suspicious activity and training and equipping people with life-saving skills.

The SPF highlighted that Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world and that "there is a high level of trust and confidence among Singaporeans in our police force". It cited a 2016 public perception survey in which most people felt that the general safety and security in Singapore is good and that they are confident the police are well prepared.

The SPF added: "It is regrettable that Mr Yeoh did not check his facts before commenting on areas he has little knowledge of. His distorted points on the Little India riot and community policing will mislead others who don't know the facts.

"It will be helpful if people like Mr Yeoh actually come forward and volunteer in community policing. He will then get a better understanding of what the police do."

Mr Yeoh on Tuesday apologised on Facebook "if I had sounded unnecessarily strident" and said he was glad the police "clarified that community policing is still a cornerstone of police methods and training".

He later said on Wednesday that the arguments in his initial post were also made by other academics and echoed by former Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee at the end of the Committee of Inquiry in 2014 into the Little India riot.

The then commissioner had asked for another 1,000 more officers to be added to the police’s ranks at the time. The extra manpower was needed so the men in blue “can acquire a much-needed strategic depth” and better police hot spots such as Geylang and Little India, he told the inquiry into the riot

With Singapore’s total population of 5.4 million, that means one regular police officer for every 614 people, which is an “exceedingly low ratio” compared with other cities such as Hong Kong, London and New York, Mr Ng had noted.

“Geylang and Little India already stretched police resources to near breaking point,” Mr Ng had said. “The fact is that unless we can find a new way of policing, especially when dealing with large congregation and mass crowds, that does not require the brute force of numbers, any increase in police presence without a corresponding increase in head count cannot be sustained for long and will always be at the expense of reduced presence somewhere else.”