More police quick response teams to boost Singapore's counter-terrorism efforts

ST VIDEO: FABIAN KOH
More In-Situ Reaction Teams will be patrolling popular areas such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay to heighten security during festive periods.
More In-Situ Reaction Teams will be patrolling popular areas such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay to heighten security during festive periods. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's counter-terrorism response will be given a boost, with more police quick response teams to be deployed at busy locations.

In-Situ Reaction Team (IRT) officers were first deployed in December 2017 and patrols will be increased in popular areas such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay to heighten security during festive periods.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam announced the measure on Thursday (April 11), emphasising the need for a robust counter-terrorism capability.

He cited the Christchurch shootings last month, to show how terror attacks can happen anytime and anywhere.

"If it can happen in New Zealand, it can happen anywhere. New Zealand is one of the last places you would expect an attack," said Mr Shanmugam at the police force's annual workplan seminar held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

He also praised the response of the New Zealand people and the political leadership showed by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and her government, saying that the country's national response was something Singapore can learn from.

Mr Shanmugam said that enhancing the equipment and training of Singapore's counter-terrorism forces will reduce the response time in the first minutes of an attack, which is the most critical period.

 
 
 

Front-line officers here have been re-equipped with pistols instead of the traditional revolvers, while officers from the Emergency Response Teams have also received new vehicles with more space for their operational equipment.

The tempo of exercises has been increased to maintain the readiness of officers. Each exercise serves as an important validation of our counter-terrorism capabilities, said Mr Shanmugam.

He said that while the police here have continued to keep crime under control, there is still a need to be careful, citing Britain, where there has been concern over a surge in violent crime, especially knife crime.

"It wouldn't have occurred to me to think of London in those terms," said Mr Shanmugam, noting that the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales over the last two years was the highest since 1946.

He stressed the need to prevent such incidents from happening here.

"There will be a commitment to continue resourcing the police, keep our laws updated and fit for purpose. We will support the police in your mission."

The workplan seminar is the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) marquee event showcasing its efforts to leverage technology and evolve into a smart force.

One of the technologies showcased this year was a screening platform called Jarvis, which allows investigation officers to search multiple SPF databases with a single query.

This cuts the process time from 20 minutes to five minutes.

Jarvis was developed in collaboration with GovTech, and was trialled with 300 users between March and November last year.

The platform was rolled out to all investigation officers from last month.

Before that, investigation officers had to log onto several different screening systems to conduct searches, such as for personal information of individuals.

There are data protection protocols and access controls in place, to ensure that the system will not be misused by officers.

The system is not connected to the Internet. Access is tiered and monitored, and there are tight rules about its usage.

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police How Kwang Hwee, director of operations, said: "The police continues to explore the use of technology, such as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and robots, to enhance our front-line operations, training and community engagement."

He cited the use of UAVs as an example of technology that can give front-line commanders a better sense of an incident as it develops, thus helping them to make better decisions on the ground and coordinate the actions of the available resources.

Other technologies on show included smart glasses for front-line officers to perform real-time video analytics, and a mannequin which can help trainees improve their Police Defence Tactics techniques by using sensors to measure the strength and location of each bodily strike.

Mr Shanmugam also said on Thursday that next year marks the bicentennial of the SPF.

"The force has come a long way. I think few organisations can claim such a long, unbroken, proud heritage," he said, adding that the SPF is among the most trusted institutions in Singapore today.