Ms Sylvia Lim asked the Minister for Home Affairs what safeguards are in place regarding the issue of firearms to officers of the Singapore Police Force and the auxiliary police forces to minimise the risk of misuse by officers.
Mr K Shanmugam: I will set out some of the measures in place to manage the risk of security officers misusing firearms which are issued to them.
All Police officers and Auxiliary Police Officers (APOs) undergo security vetting before employment. During employment, officers may be barred from accessing firearms in certain circumstances, for example, if they are under disciplinary investigation.
Firearms for the Police and the Auxiliary Police Forces are kept in armouries, and subject to processes for their issuance and safe custody. For example, there are systems to verify the identity of the officers, confirm that they are authorised to carry firearms for that particular deployment, and track the timely return of the firearms after the deployment. These processes are regularly audited to ensure compliance.
For operational security reasons, it is not appropriate to disclose details on the use of geo-fencing, other technology, and measures in relation to Police operations. Regardless, such technology and measures are not infallible, and cannot monitor or ascertain the location and activities of every officer at all times, or stop them from misusing their weapons at all times.
The real issue is this: Police officers need to carry firearms, to carry out their duties. That, in itself means there are some risks.
The selection, training and discipline of Police officers, and the conditions under which they can draw weapons, substantially reduces the risk of them misusing their weapons. But the risk is not zero. There have been cases in the past where Police officers have committed offences. No police force in the world can ensure zero risk.
The choice is therefore choosing between the risk that a Police officer might misuse his weapons; and the risk that society will face, from not arming Police officers. The latter is the far bigger risk. The way in which we manage the risks from the earlier situation have been described (in very broad terms) above.
The same goes for APOs. The choice is to decide between risks that arise from two different situations: (a) Not having armed APOs (b) Having armed APOs.
The risk to society from having APOs who do not carry weapons, and who therefore cannot intervene effectively when the situation requires, is greater.
Likewise, the same can be said about our foreign national APOs. Naturally, our ability to know the security background of foreign national APOs will be less compared with what we will know about local APOs. There is naturally a risk in having foreign APOs and arming them. But we do not have enough local APOs. We therefore need foreign APOs. Again, the risks from not deploying enough APOs are greater than the risks from having foreign APOs and arming them.
The record shows the misuse of weapons, by Police officers, APOs including foreign APOs, is very low.
We deal with the risks through the measures set out above.
Ministry of Home Affairs
10 May 2021