Back in 2017, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmuggam made a Facebook post addressing police impropriety complaints.
Most notably he said that “where our Police Officers have done wrong, we take action against them, openly and transparently. We hold them to higher standards than we do a member of public. No cover-ups. Where they break the law, they get higher penalties. The media carries stories of Police Officers being charged.”
At that time, Shanmuggam was responding to complaints about police misconduct in relation to sex workers. However, since his statement, there does not appear to have been a public follow up on this matter. Was the matter buried under reams of administration or was there a private investigation and follow up? We do not know.
At that time, this publication identified a list of cases where police misbehaviour has been mentioned. Yet, it would seem that there have been no follow up actions. Even if no official police complaint was made, isn’t it worthy to investigate anyway just for prudent housekeeping and to ensure that there continues to be trust in the police from the public?
After all, it isn’t just one case – it is a multitude of cases – and these are just ones we know about.
It is also disquieting that there appears to be a case where police officers have seemingly employed more bullying attitudes to people who are disadvantaged either through poverty, youth or disability. There are also concerns that the police action has been inconsistent. For example, the police turning up in droves to Teo Ser Lung’s house or utilising state resources to investigate PJ Thum for election breaches when the PAP already won the election by a landslide but seemingly ignoring PAP breaches.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is a tax funded service. They are answerable to the public. How do they exercise their discretion as to how and who to investigate? Is there a publicly available standard they need to abide by? The last thing we want is for the police to have a reputation of bullying double standards.
Fast forward 3 years since Shanmuggam’s statement, where are we now?
Parti Liyani’s case is currently in the headlines. Among other disturbing questions that have arisen is seeming police mishandling of investigations back in 2016 and even up to 2018. Yet, even as these questions abound, answers have not been forthcoming. Perhaps there are closed door investigations ongoing but should this really be behind closed doors? This is after all, a public interest issue.
The authorities need to display their commitment to resolving these issues properly. Otherwise, trust will be eroded in our government agencies which will not benefit anyone.
We need to use Parti Liyani’s case as an opportunity to publicly investigate the police force and if it is a question of professionality and training, these need to be given. This is why this publication is calling on the authorities to convene a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the SPF. Not just for Parti but for all the other cases where complaints of mal treatment have arisen.
Given that Shanmugam has promised transparency and openness, a COI would be the most open and transparent means for the public to see for themselves.
Instead of hiding behind closed doors, let’s embrace this opportunity for reform