33 convicted or warned over roadblock evasion in five years
New laws will significantly increase penalties to deter such crimes: Minister
In the past five years, 33 people have been convicted of or given stern warnings for evading police roadblocks, with two directly causing injury to officers.
This is out of about 8,000 roadblocks conducted each year from 2016 to last year.
Sharing these figures when the House debated the Police Force (Amendment) Bill, Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan reiterated that motorists who deliberately evade roadblocks seriously endanger the lives of police officers and other road users.
Thus, new laws passed yesterday will significantly increase the penalties for such crimes, he said.
The maximum penalty for roadblock evasion will be raised from a year in jail and a $5,000 fine to seven years' jail and a $10,000 fine.
The definition of roadblock evasion will also be expanded to include cases where an offender stops his vehicle and alights to escape, or makes a U-turn to flee. Failing to follow a police officer's orders at a roadblock - be they verbal commands, hand signals or written notices or signs - will be an offence.
The new laws will give special police officers and commercial affairs officers more powers - allowing them to arrest, detain and search people, as well as require suspects to attend court.
They will also be given bail- and bond-related powers.
Commercial affairs officers are civilians who investigate white-collar crime, while special police officers include Volunteer Special Constabulary officers, full-time national servicemen and operationally ready national servicemen.
Mr Tan said they will be allowed to exercise these powers only after receiving training, including on legal knowledge, self-defence and scenario-based training.
While commercial affairs officers are able to arrest suspects, they need to ask regular police officers for help if suspects cannot post bail and need to be locked up.
Thus, the new powers are necessary to enhance operational efficiency, given a recent uptick in increasingly complex commercial and financial crimes, Mr Tan said.
He said the officers will be given only powers relevant to their work.
Replying to MPs, including Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) from the Workers' Party, who raised concerns about allowing the Commissioner of Police to delegate some powers to civilian officers, Mr Tan said the intention is to allow the commissioner to delegate more administrative powers, and not his command powers at the front line.
"We recognise there are powers which require the specialised knowledge of a police officer who has had years of experience with policing, such as the power to disperse an unlawful assembly by military force," he said.
He also addressed some questions about powers to allow forced entry into premises during medical emergencies.
All front-line officers have basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills, and will consider various factors before making forced entry, such as signs of distress and information from next of kin and neighbours, he said.