SPF rebuts economist Yeoh Lam Keong's FB remarks on policing

This story was updated on June 7, 2017.

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 senior economist and strategist at GIC for 26 years, 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 numbers of police officers 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".

The SPF replied that Mr Yeoh's post showed "a clear lack of understanding" of what happened during the Little India riot in Singapore in 2013. 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.

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 was launched in May 2012 to bring police officers closer to the community and strengthen presence on the ground.

The Government also launched the SGSecure movement in September last year as a community response to the increasing security threats facing nations worldwide. Various initiatives have been rolled out, such as using the SGSecure app to report suspicious activity.

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."

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.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'SPF rebuts economist's FB remarks on policing'. Print Edition | Subscribe