SINGAPORE: Singaporeans have expressed mixed reactions to Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s indication earlier this week, that Singapore may recruit auxiliary police officers (APO) from India, China, the Phillipines and Myanmar in the future, given a shrinking manpower pool.

The Minister revealed this in a written response to Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), who had asked if the hiring of auxiliary police from Taiwan, which had begun in 2017,  is continuing. Ms Lim also asked about the particular work challenges have been associated with hiring officers from Taiwan, in Singapore’s auxiliary police forces (APFs) and what other jurisdictions are being considered for the recruitment of these officers.

“We need to allow the APFs to recruit foreign APOs, to meet the increasing demand for security services. They face challenges in sustaining an adequate pool of APOs, given the shrinking local workforce, requirements such as physical fitness, and the job options Singaporeans have,”  Mr Shanmugam wrote.

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And while the minister characterised the deployment Taiwanese APOs as “positive,” the challenge has been to keep them working in Singapore. He noted that their numbers have decreased by over 60 per cent since 2017, and because of this, the MHA is considering possibly hiring APOs from China, India, the Philippines, and Myanmar.

“The risk of letting non-Singaporeans carry firearms is something we focus on. So far, misuse of firearms by APOs is extremely rare and is not more prevalent among non-Singaporeans,” he added, also noting that Singapore’s “shrinking workforce” has made it a “challenging” environment.

Singaporeans responding to Mr Shanmugam’s position appear divided. While some welcomed the potential move as one that is necessary, others expressed concerns over foreigners being able to hold APF weapons in Singapore.

Some Reddit users also wondered if the issue of a shrinking local APO workforce is related to the low pay of auxiliary police staff.

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A quick check online shows that Aetos, which is looking for APOs, offers a basic salary that starts at S$2,610 monthly with a gross salary of up to S$5,200 and bonuses of up to S$25,000.

Another Reddit user suggested that retrenched people in the 40s and 50s could be hired, but asked, “Is Singapore the only country where we happily hired foreigners to police us?”

A Singaporean who has worked as a Certis APO acknowledged the low pay and added, “You work for 6-7 days straight, 13 hours on site, 2 hours making your way to and from the site, and have 1 day of rest at the end of your weekly shift.”

“I feel that the average Singaporean wanting a career path in a uniform group would rather be a police officer instead. They’re pretty much identical except police have greater career progression and much more responsibility. Not to mention growth in Cisco is pretty much capped since they usually give the highest posts to ex police/military generals to lead the organization,” wrote another.

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