Sunday, 1 May 2016

Emergency Response Team: Fast-response police unit to counter terror rolls out in June 2016

Teams with enhanced weapons will be first wave of responders in case of a terrorist attack
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 30 Apr 2016

A new fast-response police unit trained to react swiftly to armed threats across Singapore will be up and running from June to beef up the counter-terrorism strategy.

The Emergency Response Teams (ERTs), which were unveiled yesterday at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition, will be the first wave of responders in the event of a terrorist attack.

Each team comprises four or five officers, who will be the first on the scene to engage and neutralise the attackers. The ERT officers are selected from the six major land divisions, where they will also be based. Equipped with HK MP 5 sub-machine guns and trained in counter-assault skills, they will focus on containing threats quickly while minimising casualties.

The enhanced weapons are now used by the special forces and have more range and ammunition. The ERT officers will also don bullet-resistant helmets and vests.

On a day-to-day basis, the ERT officers will patrol selected public areas, such as shopping centres, as deterrence. That will allow them to be familiar with the areas and work closely with stakeholders in joint response plans.

The move is part of a comprehensive approach to addressing the threat of terrorism by enhancing the security response, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who spoke at the event.

He stressed that the ERTs will "respond faster, more effectively and decisively to attacks".

The enhanced efforts will also include adding about 300 officers to the Special Operations Command (SOC) to form the Rapid Deployment Troops (RDT) as a second wave of response. Officers in the RDT, which will be ready by next July, will be able to hop onto tactical response motorcycles to navigate through traffic gridlocks.

"For all operations within Singapore, the police will take command," said Mr Shanmugam, but depending on the scale and nature of the attack, other agencies may provide support. "For example, in a large-scale attack where additional forces... are needed, the police may call upon the Singapore Armed Forces for its specialised forces such as the Special Operations Task Force to support and reinforce the ERTs and SOC."

Vigilance is also a key pillar of counter-terrorism, and police cameras will be rolled out to places like town centres and bus interchanges from the second half of the year, said Mr Shanmugam, who also outlined the community's role in alerting police to major crises.

In an emergency, alert police via i-Witness
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 30 Apr 2016

The community will be roped in to fight terrorism by sending vital information to the police during an emergency.

The new i-Witness function within the Police@SG mobile app will let the public alert the police to an attack by sending text, pictures and videos.

Launched yesterday, it forms the next phase of the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) crowd sourcing efforts by tapping in-built cameras in mobile devices.

"If we can reach out effectively, it will provide SPF with millions of sensors, millions of pairs of eyes, which will help us protect our people better in our communities," said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

Besides major incidents, the public can also report crime and traffic matters using the app.

A new SMS service will also be rolled out on Sunday. It allows the public to send necessary information to the police when it is unsafe to call 999. For instance, in hostage situations where speaking would reveal a person's position, the person can instead SMS vital information to 71999.

Public education efforts will also be stepped up to better prepare the community in the event of a terror attack.

They include raising awareness in the coming months of "Run, Hide, Tell", as part of the SG Secure movement.

Rather than confront armed assailants, the public will be advised to run away from danger, hide from the attackers and inform the authorities immediately about the threat through various channels, such as i-Witness.

Police national service officers will be trained to be SG Secure mobilisers under a new community-engagement vocation.

These officers will support the Community Policing Units at the neighbourhood police centres and form the key link to the ground by communicating counter-terrorism messages in schools and at community events.

Special cameras in town centres and walkways
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 30 Apr 2016

Police cameras will be put up not just in housing blocks, but also town centres and public walkways, in a move to enhance vigilance.

The cameras, to be installed from the second half of the year, will come with pan-tilt-zoom functions and 360-degree fields of view. They will also be able to automatically analyse closed-circuit television footage to detect unusual activities.

Jurong Gateway, Bedok Town Centre and Ang Mo Kio Town Centre are the first three locations to get the new cameras, under an initiative called Polcam 2.0.

By December 2020, the cameras will be installed in all key public areas, such as town centres and pedestrian walkways.

The initiative follows the success of Polcam 1.0, which began in 2012 and saw police cameras installed at 10,000 Housing Board blocks and multi-storey carparks. "That has helped the police solve crimes and has given greater confidence to the public," said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition yesterday.

"Police will need new ways to analyse all the bits of data and video footage that is going to be taken," he said. "It is not possible to do this manually, so they are developing and refining video analytics capabilities to automate the analysis of Polcam footage. This will highlight incidents of interest to our officers who can then look at it."

Protective security measures for buildings and premises will also be given a boost to increase deterrence and improve the police's situational awareness.

Commercial entities will be encouraged to adopt the Video Surveillance Standards, so that CCTV footage can be obtained by the police for investigations and incident management.

The necessary legal framework will be put in place to require premises owners and organisers of major events to adopt essential security measures.

The police will also test the use of unmanned vehicles to help its manned patrols, while the Police Coast Guard (PCG) will begin exploring the use of unmanned surface vessels to conduct localised surveillance patrols and intercept intruding vessels.

The use of new technology has been a key part of the Home Team's transformation to keep pace with emerging challenges, including the threat of terrorism, amid a manpower crunch, said Mr Shanmugam.

He also talked about the need to ensure that the police force continues to attract and retain good people. To this end, the police are set to implement a new unified rank structure, and invest more in their training.

Highlighting how Singapore has been ranked the world's safest country by last year's Gallup Global Law and Order report, he thanked the police officers on behalf of Singaporeans for their work.

* First fast-response police officers commissioned
Special police teams will be first responders in shooting, bomb threat or terror situation
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 4 Jun 2016

When Inspector Paige Lee, 25, first told her parents she would be joining a new police fast-response unit, they were concerned about the risks involved for their only child.

After all, officers of the Emergency Response Teams (ERTs), unveiled in April, would form the first wave of responders in the event of a gun attack, bomb threat or terrorist situation.

The team leader of Tanglin Division's ERT had to reassure them she was well trained in counter-assault and tactical skills to cope with such threats.

They were proud parents yesterday when Insp Lee was in the inaugural batch of specially trained ERT officers commissioned at this year's Police Day Parade.

A total of 20 ERT officers, including the six team leaders of each police land division, received skill badges on behalf of their teams.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee was guest of honour at the annual parade held at the Home Team Academy.

Being a female officergives her "no shortcuts or privileges" in training at the Special Operations Command, said Insp Lee.

Equipped with HK-MP 5 submachine guns, the ERT officers focus on containing threats on the ground quickly while minimalising casualties.

On a daily basis, these officers can be seen patrolling public areas such as shopping centres as a deterrent measure.

The rigorous training programme also includes being thrown into unpredictable scenarios with limited information and forced to make critical decisions fast.

"There's no textbook answer," said the National University of Singapore graduate in political science who was nominated to be an ERT officer after two years in the force as an investigation officer at Bedok Division.

It was Insp Lee's first interaction with police officers as a nine-year-old that inspired her to join the force.

She said: "We had family friends who got into a family dispute that turned ugly. When the men in blue came in their uniforms, I just felt a sense of reassurance that everything was going to be okay."

For Clementi Division ERT team leader James Wong, 29, it was recent terror incidents in the region, such the Jakarta bombings in January, that spurred him to contribute in his new role.

"Given the current security climate, there's a need for a swift, capable and ready force to counter such threats," said the former investigation officer at Jurong Division.

A total of 655 participants, led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Gwee Aik Chiong, took part in the parade.

Bedok Division, which covers the eastern part of Singapore from Geylang to Pasir Ris, was named the Best Land Division this year.

The Best National Service Operationally Ready Unit was awarded to Clementi Division.

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