Singapore

Countering terror in Singapore waters

Emergency response force to be armed with unique skills and specialist firepower

From June, a new emergency response force (ERF) trained in counter-assault skills and armed with sub-machine guns and carbines to counter terror attacks will patrol Singapore waters.

To improve communications, a Home Team Operations Centre (HTOC) will also co-locate agencies such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Central Narcotics Bureau with the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC) this year.

Ramping up their emergency response capability, police have started to equip regular officers with pistols instead of revolvers as well, starting this month - a switch that was first reported by The Straits Times in February.

These were among plans revealed by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam at the police's annual Workplan Seminar yesterday at the Singapore Expo.

A panel also discussed the importance of community cohesion and an individual's responsibility in fighting terror, with a survivor of the 2015 Bangkok bomb blast among the three panellists.

Each Police Coast Guard patrol boat will soon have ERF-trained officers, ready to respond to incidents such as gunmen being on board a vessel.

Meanwhile, the new HTOC will allow a central pool comprising the different agencies to "leverage the data that is available" for real-time use, said Mr Shanmugam.

"Since the beginning of this year, the police have also deployed experienced investigators at the POCC to coordinate better between investigations and operations," he added.

On the frontline, by 2022, all regular officers are also expected to be equipped with pistols, which have greater firepower and can hold more ammunition than revolvers.

The police are also training more specialist officers such as rapid deployment troops, said Mr Shanmugam.

These are the second wave of response supporting land divisions' emergency response teams, by manoeuvring through traffic on motorcycles to reach incident sites.

But emergency response is only one part of fighting terrorism and building capabilities, Mr Shanmugam said, stressing the need to "strengthen the partnership with the community in times of crisis".

He added that more police cameras will be deployed by the end of the year.

Under PolCam 2.0, some 3,100 more cameras will be positioned in town centres such as Toa Payoh, as well as 50 hawker centres and markets and 700 covered linkways.

"These cameras will be equipped to detect abnormalities and they will have analytics," said Mr Shanmugam.

By July, another 150 police patrol vehicles will be installed with in-vehicle video recording systems, which can stream live videos to the POCC.

The system has automated number plate recognition systems to help the police identify vehicles of interest promptly as well.

The upcoming Home Team Show and Festival, and reunion at the Old Police Academy will pay tribute to national servicemen.

More NSmen will be deployed for leadership and specialist roles - such as new public order troops for major security events or national emergencies.

But Mr Shanmugam said the police cannot carry out their duties "without a very substantial amount of public confidence", citing a public perception survey last year with 93 per cent of respondents saying they felt safe walking alone at night.

Erawan Shrine blast survivor speaks at police Workplan Seminar

policeterrorismK Shanmugam