Securing waters, communicating in Korean among the challenges

Assistant Commissioner Jarrod Pereira (right), commander of Clementi Police Division, and Superintendent Daniel Hui, Clementi police's head of operations, were involved in the operations at the Capella hotel.
Assistant Commissioner Jarrod Pereira (right), commander of Clementi Police Division, and Superintendent Daniel Hui, Clementi police's head of operations, were involved in the operations at the Capella hotel.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

With its sprawling gardens, cascading outdoor pools and open sea views, the Capella Singapore hotel fits the bill as a great holiday resort.

But officers from the Clementi Police Division and their security counterparts from the United States and North Korea had just three weeks to lock down the complex and turn it into a tightly secured venue for a historic summit.

"It was the first high-level security event in Sentosa," said Assistant Commissioner Jarrod Pereira, who led police operations at the hotel for the summit. "The summit involved two of the world's most protected leaders."

AC Pereira, 49, who is commander of Clementi Police Division, has been with the Singapore Police Force for 21 years.

He said: "Every venue can be secured. Different venues have different vulnerabilities, and there will be different measures in place."

AC Pereira noted that the hotel's secluded location was advantageous, as was the fact that there was essentially only one way in and out of the island by land.

Sentosa and the Tanglin area were gazetted as "special event areas" with access tightly controlled.

Security was even tighter around the "special zones" - the Shangri-La Hotel, where US President Donald Trump stayed, and The St Regis Singapore, where Mr Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea, stayed.

The Capella was similarly located in a "special zone" and even coastal waters nearby came under the "special event area" boundaries.

It was the first time the police had to plan for potential maritime incursions. "The vulnerability from sea was quite new," said AC Pereira. "So we had to plan to cover all sorts of angles."

Nothing was left to chance. Police covered the 12ha of lush vegetation around Capella with security and thermal cameras.

In the week leading up to the summit, officers sometimes spent up to 18 hours a day doing recce and preparatory work.

The event coincided with the June school holidays and the month of Ramadan, but arrangements were made to accommodate these factors, said AC Pereira.

"Many of the officers volunteered to come back. I believe many of them saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and felt proud to be part of the summit."

There were also some challenges in communicating with the North Korean security delegation, but the division managed to find some police officers who spoke Korean to act as interpreters, said AC Pereira.

"At first we didn't know what to expect from the North Korean side, as they have probably had less experience in dealing with such combined security efforts... But I have to say they were very professional," he said.

Tan Tam Mei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'Securing waters, communicating in Korean among the challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe