Singapore police respond to academic's comments alleging inadequate community policing

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Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, a former chief economist at GIC, also wrote that “alienation from police” was a big reason for the 2013 Little India riot – comments which the police say show “a clear lack of understanding of what happened.”

Policemen stand on the street in Little India on Dec 9, 2013, following a riot the day before by South Asian workers in the worst outbreak of violence in more than 40 years in Singapore. (Photo: AFP/Rahman Roslan)

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has responded to comments by an adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy who said that “penny wise pound foolish policy decisions” have resulted in inadequate community policing in Singapore. 

Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, a former chief economist at GIC, also alleged on his Facebook page on Monday (Jun 5) that “alienation from the police” was a big reason for the cause and poor handling of the 2013 Little India riot. “Alcohol is just a convenient scapegoat,” he wrote. 

“Mr Yeoh’s sweeping statement is not only inaccurate, it shows a clear lack of understanding of what happened during the Little India riot, and an ignorance of our community policing efforts,” said SPF on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

The police reiterated that what mainly led to the riot was a fatal road accident and that the violence was escalated by the consumption of alcohol and a “desire for street justice”. These were findings released in 2014 by the Committee of Inquiry that was tasked to investigate the causes of the riot.

The police also criticised Mr Yeoh’s “ignorance” of its community policing efforts, and highlighted its strategies in keeping Singapore safe, such as the Community Policing System – adopted by all Neighbourhood Police Centres since April 2015 – and terror response movement SGSecure. 

“Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world. There is a high level of trust and confidence amongst Singaporeans in our police force,” said SPF, citing a 2016 public perception survey. 

“It is regrettable that Mr Yeoh did not check his facts before commenting on areas he has little knowledge of,” SPF added. “His distorted points on the Little India riot and community policing will mislead others who don’t know the facts.”

SPF also said it would be helpful if “people like Mr Yeoh came forward and volunteered in community policing” to help them get a better understanding of what the police do.

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