Manpower issues cannot be an excuse for a lapse in police investigations, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam in Parliament on Nov. 4.
Shanmugam was referring to the Parti Liyani case, in which conduct by the police officers was less than ideal, such as leaving a box of alleged stolen items with the Liew family for weeks, thereby breaking the chain of custody.
He revealed that the officer involved had a number of other ongoing operations and had a "very personal matter" they had to deal with, thereby being placed under a lot of pressure. Internal investigations are being carried out as to their conduct during the case.
Workers' Party leader Pritam Singh asked Shanmugam about these manpower issues.
"I think from the public perspective there is a concern when investigations for whatever purposes are somewhat not conducted or in breach of what minister said, in breach of police requirements."
Singh asked what the extent of this issue was, and asked if this issue could be solved by directives or circulars from commanding officers of various divisions.
Shanmugam said he made it clear it cannot be an excuse for lapses and disciplinary action is being taken. As for manpower issues, he has asked for a review to get a better sense of the pressure faced by police officers.
Comments on HOME statement
Singh also asked about the statement made by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) on the complaint Parti Liyani lodged against police officers from the Tanglin Police Division.
Singh asked: "I would like to inquire whether [investigations on the way the investigating officer conducted himself at trial] have been completed. And if they have been completed, can Minister share what would have been the police's findings."
In response, Shanmugam said that he had not had the chance to look at the statement closely.
However, he said that he has addressed both issues of translation and time taken for the investigation in his statement.
He added: "I really wonder, how these are matters for filing a police report. The fact that the IO took five weeks is a matter that a victim files a police report to complain about? And I think Mr. Singh, we all know that Ms. Liyani is not doing this. We know why this is being done."
PAP Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher de Souza also asked if more can be done to entrench impartiality in system.
Shanmugam said: "We got to be always on guard to see whether some sort of, explicit bias we can all see, but implicit bias growing in, we got to guard against it."
"When people ask questions we have to be accountable here. And if something goes wrong, the will to put it right as well," he added.
Video recording of statements
PAP MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim also asked if there are plans to video record statements taken from accused persons, especially given the alleged confusion on the statements.
Shanmugam said that that would be the gold standard. However, he added that "there is a serious bottleneck."
He added that the video will still have to be transcribed to be used in courts, but the manpower needed to transcribe is very difficult.
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Top image from Screenshot from CNA.