The Commissioner of Police (CP) Ng Joo Hee took the stand on Day 23 of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearings into the Little India riot yesterday.
CP Ng defended his men's performance but acknowledged some failings such as the slow response time for the police to activate their anti-riot squad and the lack of communications.
His display at the COI was commendable, until he mentioned about how short-handed the police force is and the "lawlessness" in Geylang.
Below are six quotes that will make Singaporeans a bit concerned about law and security in Singapore.
i) CP Ng on the "hint of lawlessness" in Geylang. He said that a police officer was beaten up while detaining a gambling store operator on a recent occasion and that a police car parked in Geylang was also vandalised and had its windscreen smashed.
1. "Today, despite the riot in Little India, I worry more for Geylang.. If Singaporeans are irked by the littering, the noise and the jaywalking in Little India, they'll certainly and quickly sense that there exists a hint of lawlessness in Geylang" ("1,000 more cops needed to boost force: Police chief", The Straits Times, A2)
2. "Most worry about Geylang is that there is an overt hostility and antagonism towards the police.. All in all, Geylang presents an ecosystem which is complex, which is tinged with a certain criminal undertone." ("Geylang is more of a worry", The New Paper, p.8)
Number of crimes committed in areas of concern
Source: The Online Citizen
ii) CP Ng highlighted a key failing during the Little India riots. The police could not communicate properly due to jammed airwaves that made walkie-talkies ineffective, while their phones were affected by a lack of mobile signals.
4. "Our communications were non-existent, our sense-making is zero. This is something we really have to work on". ("Geylang is more of a worry", The New Paper, p.9)
iii) CP Ng said that the ratio of police to Singapore residents is two to three times lower that of other cities. Singapore has 614 people per police officer compared with 252 in Hong Kong, 303 in Tokyo, 242 in New York City and 249 in London. It is ironic that he used a robber analogy to describe the police shortage.
5. “Over the years, we have strived to keep our force small, while constantly creating new capabilities through deploying better technology, outsourcing and by co-creating with the community. Even then, we frequently rob Peter to pay Paul, as was the case when we kept reducing the size of our anti-riot troopers to fund other capabilities." ("Police Commissioner wants 1,000 more officers to give force 'much needed' depth", The Straits Times)
iv) CP Ng was "proud and gratified" by the restraint his officers showed in the face of violence in Little India. He said that the silver lining had to be considered - there were no deaths or serious injuries to anybody and the violence was put down within two hours.
6. "I think many of my counterparts in the other side of the world would have taken this riot any time." ("Police didn't use deadly force to quell Little India riot", The Straits Times, B3)
Actually, we prefer no riot in future. Thank you very much.
Top photo from Getty Images.