Singapore: Singapore will double the size of its frontline anti-riot forces and step up surveillance after the country witnessed its worst street violence in 40 years during the Little India riot last year.
Talking about the December 8 riot and a report from an official probe into the incident, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament yesterday that 300 more officers will be added to the Special Operations Command (SOC), doubling its current strength of deployable frontline troopers trained in riot control.
"We will commence the build-up immediately, and progressively build up its capabilities over the next two to three years," Teo was quoted as saying by the Straits Times.
"Given the riot, police must re-assess the likelihood of having to deal with large scale public order incidents and strengthen the ability of its forces to do so," Teo said.
The riot force beefing is a change in policy from the past when police shifted its focus to crime prevention and community policing following a sharp drop in public disorders from the mid-1970s, he said.
Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister, set out these measures in a ministerial statement while responding to the report by the state-appointed Committee of Inquiry into the December 8 riot in Singapore`s Little India.
The riot left 54 police and defence officers injured and 23 emergency vehicles damaged on the night of December 8, when an Indian national died in an accident linked to a private bus in the Little India precinct.
The COI conducted a month-long probe and presented the report on June 30, with eight recommendations, including the need to beef up police force.
Teo said the government has accepted the COI recommendations.
The Police Tactical Troops from the SOC, which are on round-the-clock stand-by duty will increase from eight to 12, he said.
The additional troops will be "configured for rapid deployment on lighter and more mobile platforms".
The number of officers in each troop will also be raised from 35 to 44, and the officers will be provided with "additional equipment to improve their sense-making and operational capabilities," enabling each to deal more effectively with a wider range of situations and crowd size, he said.
Besides increasing manpower, police has also been using improved deployment strategies and invested in technology as a "force multiplier", the minister said. The technology included installation of police cameras.
"This combination of better operational deployments and technology have contributed significantly to keeping crime low and solving cases," said Teo.