Striking hard & fast

TOOLS: STF officers use equipment like hydraulic cutting tools and portable door rams. - PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHD YUSOF

Thirty seconds flat.

That's the time Special Task Force (STF) officers are expected to take to make a forced entry into a flat.

The quicker they breach a drug syndicate's hideout, the better the chances of arresting the suspects red-handed and without incident.

Prior to executing the arrests, the covert operators make their assessments of the target.

Jason, a senior officer-in-charge of the STF, said: "They (STF officers) will spy on the unit itself to learn what kinds of doors and gates (are used by the suspects)."

The strike team will then select the most suitable tools for the job. These include heavy-duty cutting tools, portable door rams and hydraulic spreaders. A hydraulic door opener can break a standard HDB flat door in less than seven seconds.

A normal scenario involves one STF officer cutting the lock on a gate while the other gets ready to ram open the door.

Added Jason, 39: "That's why we emphasise forced entry training, to ensure that (the officers) can break in fast enough before the evidence is disposed."

While success is measured by the amount of drugs confiscated, sometimes the weapons found in these hideouts can be alarming.

Luckily, most traffickers have been caught by surprise.

SSG Tinidescribed previous operations: "As we went in, they had no chance to take out the weapons. During searches, we have recovered stun guns, samurai swords, knives, knuckle dusters, batons and even a Rottweiler."

But the officers are prepared for trouble. For raids on homes, each officer's 6kg load of personal equipment consists of a stab- and bullet-proof vest, slash-proof gloves and sleeves, a pair of handcuffs, goggles and an extendable baton with a sharp tip for breaking windows. They also each carry a 9mm pistol with a 13-round magazine.

At the end of the day, safety is paramount.

Jason said: "For successful operations, we look at the arrest of the key players, the (drug) seizures. And I will always tell them (the officers) that these are not the main factors. Their personal safety and that of the public and even the accused persons (are equally important). No one should be injured."