Inaccurate police force to resident ratio

I refer to the 26 Mar 2014 Straits Times report “1,000 more cops needed to boost police force: Police chief” [1].

The report stated that Singapore currently has 163 police officers for every 100,000 residents based on 8,784 police officers and a population of 5,400,000. This statistics is wrong because it excludes the 3,700 full time national service policemen who bear the exact same firearm and equipment as regular police officers and perform the exact same job for the same rank. Just as the Singapore armed forces strength includes national service soldiers, similarly the Singapore police force strength should also include national service policemen.

If full time national service policemen are included, our ratio becomes 231 police officers for every 100,000 residents instead. That will make the police commissioner Mr Ng Joo Hee’s statement that comparable cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York and London typically operate with two or three times more police officers per resident than Singapore does inaccurate. The correct ratio should be 1.4 to 1.8 times.

[1] Straits Times, 1,000 more cops needed to boost police force: Police chief, 26 Mar 2014

Police strength per 100k population Singapore

TO BEEF up the anti-riot capability of the police while keeping Singapore safe, Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee wants to recruit 1,000 more officers.

The police chief made this passionate plea at the end of his testimony yesterday before the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Dec 8 riot.

The extra manpower will let him raise an additional tactical troop specialised in tackling riots and police hot spots, and increase the number of officers who patrol the streets and neighbourhoods. It would also allow the police to train its front-line officers better.

The COI, led by retired judge G. Pannir Selvam, had over the course of the public hearing, questioned why police patrolmen were not adequately trained to deal with the unrest.

The 47-year-old – who was testifying at the COI for the first time since it was convened – said that a move to train officers to deal with the “initial moments” of a riot more effectively is now being considered. But that will involve “large and persistent investments in manpower and in training”.

Already, front-line officers work a four-shift system lasting 12 hours each, leaving them with very little time for training of any sort. That is why Mr Ng feels that training these officers to fight riots under the current shift system is “quite impossible”.

“If we were a football team, we would be a team that spends most of our time playing matches and very little time training,” he said.

“And in my view, that is quite incredible and not a desirable situation… I think we have to rethink the system and we have to certainly get more resources if we want to do that.”

A key reason for the manpower crunch in the force, added Mr Ng, is because its ranks have not kept pace with Singapore’s population growth over the years.

In 1994, there were 222 officers for every 100,000 residents here. Now there are 163.

This also affects the size of anti-riot squads, better known as Police Tactical Troops (PTT) under the Special Operations Command.

The first time these specialised units were restructured was in 1983, when 12 troops of 63 men were cut to just eight troops, each with 46 men. In 2004, the number per troop was cut to 35.

As of last December, the Singapore Police Force has just under 8,800 regular officers, supported by about 3,700 full-time national servicemen and 2,000 volunteer policemen.

“If you look at cities of comparable sizes like Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, London, you will find that they typically operate with two or three times more police officers than we do per resident in Singapore,” said Mr Ng.

“So there is some truth in the common refrain that one hardly comes across police officers on the streets of Singapore. But at the same time, we are able to deliver safety from crime that is still the envy of the world.”

Mr Ng told the COI that the way to “increase police robustness before the next disturbance comes around is to build up rather than to cut down on our contingency forces.

“My intention, if I have the resources, is to raise an additional PTT to be on standby at any one time. If we are able to do this, we can increase our rioting fighting capability by 50 per cent and create the ability to bring a far larger force to bear to an incident.”

In addition to augmenting the PTT, Mr Ng said it is critical to project a stronger police presence in areas where there is a congregation of foreign workers and that “pose a clear and present danger to public order”, aside from Little India. “Today, despite the riot in Little India, I worry more for Geylang,” he said. “If Singaporeans are irked by the littering, the noise and the jaywalking in Little India, they’ll certainly and quickly sense that there exists a hint of lawlessness in Geylang.”

A deployment of 300 pairs of boots on the ground should bring noticeable police visibility to both locations, added Mr Ng. But efforts to maintain law and order in Geylang and Little India have “already stretched police resources to near breaking point”.

“My planners tell me that police presence is defined as a police patrol passing a point once every 15 to 20 minutes… This is a useful benchmark, but one which we cannot come close to achieving in either Little India or Geylang on present levels of resourcing.”

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One Response to “Inaccurate police force to resident ratio”

  1. George Lam Says:

    I am greatly surprised by these statements of the CP to the COI. IMO, it is safe to assume that this wouldn’t be the first and only time the CP had voiced his lament about his dissatisfaction with the police manpower situation. It is clearly his responsibility as the CP and his words has to be taken as near gospel as he is the man on the spot.

    His remarks implied that his ministry and minister is fully conversant with the facts and what he would tell and have no objection to him voicing it at the COI. Either that or his revelation is in defiance in defiance of his MHA bosses as he feels his own reputation and credibility are at stake.

    But, knowing the PAP politicians well, they must already have a reply/excuse ready. My guess is their excuse has to be an inability to recruit Singaporeans into the police force. And it is also my guess that the difficulties lay not only in pay and service conditions but also the poor reputation the SPF and its members have managed to acquired for itself over the years – its severe lack of EQ, unresponsiveness, being impolite, remote, distant, unfriendly and diffident to members of the public. But perhaps the police WORST sin is how it has been acquiring the image and reputation of being used by the ruling party to suppress the opposition political parties – the police is very often seen as stooges of the govt carrying out its aims of political suppression of the public will and aspiration of Singaporeans.

    To be sure, the policemen on the beat often have NO CHOICE since the govt has ensured that the police carried out its enforcement ‘duties’ that are heavily laced with partisan political objectives, by making them into laws. Examples abound – from refusing to grant permits for all sorts of activities to laws that make a single street protester an illegal ‘assembly’, to flash mobs, to it even being an offence to film or video record public protests, etc. The list goes on. (Feel free to add on.) In a nutshell, our police force has been turned into a private political tool of the ruling party made to execute actions at the behest of the govt leaders against any activities deemed prejudicial to the dominance of the party in power.

    Under the circumstance, are we too surprised that not many Singaporeans want to be policemen? Perhaps, that is why the govt is apparently mass recruiting policemen and auxiliary policemen from abroad, notably, from Malaysia. And I believe they are meeting with many severe limitations and problems that such a recruitment would entail.

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