On government right of replies again
“We would like to assure Mr Law that our police officers are trained not only to know the law and their powers under the law, but also how to handle difficult operational situations with sensitivity, flexibility and balance while upholding it.”
Oct 29, 2007
ST Forum Letter
Police trained to handle difficult situations
I REFER to the letter, ‘No ‘maybes’, police action should be sound’ by Mr Law Sin Ling (ST, Oct 27).
Senior Minister of State Ho Peng Kee was seeking to clarify in Parliament that the police officers on duty that day did not act in a high-anded manner. However, with hindsight, on the specific issue of the two police officers asking the two men to remove their T-shirts, he was of the view that this was perhaps overly cautious and probably an over-reaction.
Police officers must always be prepared to make a judgment call when confronted with a tense and dynamic situation on the ground. This is obviously not always easy or straightforward. In that particular situation, the priority in the minds of the two police officers in attendance was to prevent a breach of the peace or a law-and-order situation from developing. Their action was understandable.
In any tense and emotional situation, actions taken by the police should not inadvertently escalate tension and so contribute to the very outcome they are trying to prevent. Hence the decision by the police officers was to engage and seek, in the first instance, the voluntary cooperation of the two people involved. This was an approach that was calibrated, restrained and appropriate in the circumstances. The effective resolution of the incident attests to this.
The two men could, of course, refuse to cooperate. If that had happened, then the police officers would have had to decide whether to interview them on the spot at a quieter location or invoke the law to compel their attendance at the police station. An option, as Mr Law alluded to, is by way of summons.
We would like to assure Mr Law that our police officers are trained not only to know the law and their powers under the law, but also how to handle difficult operational situations with sensitivity, flexibility and balance while upholding it.
Toh Yong Chuan
International and Corporate Relations Division