The police have done "exceptionally well” this year in the wake of major events, a changing security landscape and shifts in technology and social attitudes, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (Nov 30).
He was speaking to reporters at the Police Central Division, where he met about 80 officers from various land divisions, the Special Operations Command, and the Traffic Police. This was Mr Shanmugam’s first official visit to a police division after assuming his role at the Ministry of Home Affairs in October.
During the visit, Mr Shanmugam was briefed on the major police operations this year, such as overseas disaster relief operations, the state funeral for Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the 28th SEA Games and the 2015 General Election.
“This has been a very, very taxing year for the whole of Home Team, police officers included," Mr Shanmugam said. "We had many events where 4,000 to 5,000 officers were deployed at one go. A lot of leave has been cancelled, a lot of plans have been put on hold, and pretty much 24/7 right through the year.
Senior Staff Sergeant R Balamurugan, who has been patrolling the roads for 15 years, was among the policemen present. He said he has had to adapt to a changing Singapore.
"Over the years, there are more vehicles plying through on Singapore roads, and Singapore has become more metropolitan, it's moving forward, so changes are inevitable. We have to keep up with it," he said.
"This is on top of the regular policing that has to be done, and with a very different changing security landscape. The fact that nothing happens tells you a story,” Mr Shanmugam added.
That said, the minister said the police will only face increasing demands in the future, citing challenges such as cyber crime, and a drop in manpower due to the overall dwindling number of young people entering the workforce.
“We have to, rather than react, see what’s happening and prepare ourselves for it. I think greater use of technology, greater integration between the various Home Team agencies, better use of existing resources. All of these will take you some reasonable distance, but it will nevertheless be challenging,” Mr Shanmugam said.
“Within Singapore, you can’t turn the whole place in a lockdown. People need to be free, people need to be able to go where they want, do what they want. At the same time, we want to make sure as far as possible that is maintained while creating a good, secure environment. So those are challenges with resources which are not increasing, but demands that are increasing. So we have to do the best we can,” he added.
Mr Shanmugam called for better use of technology and resources, and for Home Team agencies, such as the police and fire departments, to work better together.