Security officer who stood in front of Bentley was focused on not letting it enter school

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SINGAPORE - When security officer Neo Ah Whatt stood in front of the moving Bentley, he was focused on only one thing - do not let the car enter the school.

Mr Neo, 62, who was on duty at the Red Swastika School on Tuesday (Jan 11), recounted some parts of the incident to Mr Steve Tan when he visited him on Tuesday and to other staff from Union of Security Employees (USE) when they called him on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Mr Tan, the union's executive secretary, shared the account with The Straits Times on Wednesday, after Mr Neo declined to speak to the media, saying that he was overwhelmed by the situation.

Mr Tan said Mr Neo's job was to control traffic at the entrance and exit lanes as there were students crossing.

The Bentley had cut the queue and tried to enter via the exit lane where Mr Neo was.

Mr Tan said: "Allowing the car to enter was dangerous as it was going against the flow of traffic. Also, if a car was allowed to cut the queue, others would also (follow suit).

"Uncle Neo also shared that there was a drop-off point in front of the school gates (that) some parents would use and he tried to tell that to the driver."

But the car moved forward, scraping Mr Neo's knees. Despite this, he stood his ground.

"He did not think too much about it, as his main thought was that the car cannot go in," said Mr Tan.

Eventually, the decision was made to allow the car to go in and drop off the student.

The police said the driver - a 61-year-old man - was arrested on Tuesday for a rash act causing hurt. Investigations are ongoing.

Said Mr Tan: "Uncle Neo has been overwhelmed by the support from everyone and thanks them for the concern. He said that he is on medical leave and after his rest, he is looking forward to returning to work."

(From left) Mr Daniel Tan from Reachfield Security and Safety Management, Mr Neo Ah Whatt, Mr Raymond Chin and Mr Steve Tan, both from USE. PHOTO: USE

Mr Deva Joseph, head of operations at Premier Security Co-operative, said according to the standing operating procedure for officers, they should not stand in front of an oncoming vehicle.

He said: "The security officer's safety comes first. After advising the person not to gain entry, the officer should not be standing in front and endangering himself.

"If the (driver) persists, just move away (from the vehicle) and the situation can be dealt with later."

Depending on the circumstances, the officer could follow behind the vehicle and confront the driver after he alights.

He should also notify those in the control room who may make the decision to call the police.

Mr Deva said some security officers who put their life on the line may have a keen sense of duty which is common among older officers especially.

He also said others may do so as they feel they are answerable to the clients who may question them afterwards why they allowed the person to gain entry.

The public must also play its role in ensuring the officers' safety, Mr Deva said.

Roughly two in five of 1,000 officers surveyed by USE between July and September 2021 said they have experienced verbal or physical abuse while on duty.

Most of the abuse was targeted at older officers and came mostly from members of the public, which formed around 40 per cent of the abuse cases reported by officers.

Mr Tan said: "An officer's job, as mandated by law, will require him to ask people to comply with rules. This puts them in the front line and (they) face potential abuse on a daily basis."

With the limelight on security companies, Reliance Security Services director Mack N. Nambiar hopes more support can be given to security officers in their day-to-day work to ensure their safety.

This includes employing more remote-controlled gates so that officers can stand out of harm's way and having more officers deployed to guard locations to allow them to discuss and handle dynamic situations.

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