The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is trusted, but the community-police relationship should not be taken for granted and allowed to deteriorate.
At the Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition at the Singapore Expo on Friday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said there are lessons to be learned from instances when police are perceived as the adversary rather than protectors.
He cited the January 2020 Capitol Hill riot.
After Trump lost the election to Democrat Joe Biden, his supporters attacked the US government building with stun guns, baseball bats, and other weapons.
Mr. Shanmugam claimed the police were engulfed in politics.
Despite property destruction, over 140 cops injured, and over 1,000 people detained, some in the media and politicians sought to minimize the rebellion for their personal advantage.
The Speaker of the House released surveillance video with Fox News earlier this year. Mr. Shanmugam said that the Republican Speaker is second in the presidential succession and that the pundit suggested the Democrats misled to Americans about the events.
The minister stated these political tactics involve the police in political arguments.
He said that it might happen in all democracies during a power struggle, with some factions exploiting the police as a scapegoat or collateral damage.
“So, we avoid this and support the police being neutral and independent, not used for political purposes. Mr. Shanmugam stated the police should not be politicked.
The minister used US gun ownership to show how regulations influence police officers’ daily work.
He claimed he doesn’t think Americans are more violent than others, even Singaporeans.
He noted that 50 to 60 police officers are killed by weapons each year, and knowing of colleagues who have been shot, will affect their thinking.
Mr. Shanmugam told SPF officers at the event: “If there are 4 million guns out there, for our 3.6 million citizen population, I think our officers will have a very different mindset.
You’ll fear every incidence. The smallest suspicion might cause an immediate reaction—to fire or be shot.”
Mr. Shanmugam warned against involving the police in social issues including race, religion, and politics.
He said government must address social concerns and police must execute the law.
“That means the government has to deal with the fault lines in society, and they have to be dealt with effectively, because when tensions escalate, public disorder breaks out, there are outcomes that the police have no choice but to deal with,” said Mr. Shanmugam.
“If there are serious socio-political divides, the police will be seen as taking sides, attacking particular ethnicities or demographics (those in the protests).”
He said that unresolved socio-political concerns caused the 2019 Hong Kong demonstrations.
The police were summoned to restore order, but the people accused them of being partial, repressive, and part of the problem. Mr. Shanmugam called it “people versus police”.
“The Hong Kong Police Force went from being ‘Asia’s Finest’ to being hated and even disgusted,” the minister said.
Mr. Shanmugam observed that police is a difficult profession and urged for fair pay for officers, who work shifts and on public holidays and are at danger of injury.
He noted that it’s also vital to defend cops and counter misinformation.
A 2021 Yishun police officer was unjustly accused of bullying an elderly woman.
Mr. Shanmugam used the fake news statute to force an Instagram user, Singapore Uncensored, and The Online Citizen (TOC) websites to issue corrections.
After TOC repeated its assertions, the police revealed two body-worn camera films from the policemen involved.