Singapore

Legislative options being considered to deal with false attacks against police: Shanmugam

Legislative options being considered to deal with false attacks against police: Shanmugam
Reuters file photo
Published: 8:05 PM, April 7, 2017
Updated: 10:55 PM, April 7, 2017

SINGAPORE — Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Friday (April 7) lashed out at “false and baseless” attacks against the police, which not only discredit the men in blue, but also dumb down discourse.

Following his remarks in Parliament on Monday that a government review was underway to address the issue of fake news, Mr Shanmugam said the authorities are looking into “legislative options” to “go further” in dealing with false allegations made against the police.

The police cannot remain quiet in the face of such attacks launched to undermine their work, said the minister. He cited as examples how online media had accused the police of intimidating teenager Benjamin Lim - whose death last year was ruled a suicide - to confess to a crime he did not commit, and recent allegations that police officers had accused a wheelchair-bound man of motorcycle theft.

Addressing about 1,000 officers and invited guests at the Singapore Police Force’s annual Workplan Seminar, Mr Shanmugam said: “(These attacks) are designed to make people angry with the police force and try and weaken the morale of the police force... That, I personally take very strong objection to… My intention is that we will do something about it.”

He added: “If someone makes an allegation maliciously, knowing that it is false, and attacks a public institution like the police force, he is doing Singapore a lot of harm. He is seeking to undermine the police force.”

Mr Shanmugam noted that a culture of law and order has developed over the years, and “that has helped the police to be really seen as a friend of the public”.

“The men in blue is someone you can approach, you can talk to, he is on my side. There is no divide, and that is extremely important.”

Citing the results of a public perception survey by the police, which showed that Singaporeans rated safety and security highly, Mr Shanmugam attributed these results to the “immense dedication, commitment and integrity” of the police officers.

Among the 4,800 Singaporeans and permanent residents surveyed last year, 92 per cent felt that the police had done well in solving crimes, while about nine in 10 (91 per cent) had confidence that the police force will be effective in maintaining law and order during a civil emergency.

While not all police officers are “angels”, they are accountable to a system that “values integrity (and) punishes those who stray”, said Mr Shanmugam.

“Therefore, as a whole, people know they can trust (the police). That is why the public, through Parliament, has been content to give substantial discretionary power to the police force. And we have to continuously strive to maintain and deepen that trust between the public and the police.”

Public trust was one of three key priorities for the police that Mr Shanmugam highlighted in his keynote address.

The minister also reiterated the terrorism threat and how enforcement in the region has become increasingly challenging due to returning fighters and self-radicalised individuals and groups.

From June, the Police Coast Guard will be equipped with emergency response officers versed in counter-assault skills to take on attackers who infiltrate by sea.

The police will also continue to strengthen community preparedness and vigilance through various platforms.

Mr Shanmugam said National Service is another platform through which the police must continue to deepen their policing capabilities.

More operationally-ready National Servicemen will be appointed to leadership and specialist roles, and to take on more tasks traditionally handled by the regulars, he added.