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Police procedures are in need of serious updates

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By: Ghui

From the Little India riot, to the Benjamin Lim incident, and the recent fracas surrounding a talk given by the police on crime prevention, it has become rather clear (to me at least) that the police is in need of some serious updating in terms of procedures.

In all of these incidences, a common thread prevails – an over simplification of the nature of crime. More often than not, in incidences of crime, there are often many factors at play. If the police are only trained to deal with all matters in the same way, it is no wonder that bungles are made.

Riots do not routinely occur in Singapore and when the Little India riots erupted, the police were caught off guard. If I may be permitted to make a generalisation, Singaporeans are not famed for being able to think outside the box. We await instructions from further up the chain. While this modus operandi may work when things are smooth sailing, it doesn’t quite function so seamlessly when something unexpected occurs. It wouldn’t be fair to blame the police force entirely for this matter. At the end of the day, if they have not received the appropriate training, they may not have been in a position to act in the most effective manner.

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In the Benjamin Lim tragedy, the police may have, for want of a matter word, “overpoliced” the situation and overwhelmed an adolescent with their strength in numbers. On top of that, the police did not seem to be trained adequately in the handling of minors. The interrogating officer in question also appeared to have taken the hardline approach in a bid to get Lim to confess. Perhaps the officer in question’s training was to assume that all suspects are hardened criminals who lie when this is not always the case?

Now, we have the recent crime prevention talk saga whereby a well meaning gesture has had unwitting but damaging consequences. I don’t doubt the police officer’s sincerity but his notion on crime appears to be outdated and misinformed.

Rape is a traumatic crime whereby it is difficult for the victim to even speak out. In many instances, rapes are not even reported because the victim feels ashamed and exposed leading the perpetrator to walk free while the victim gets further victimised. 

It is therefore of great importance for law enforcement agencies to be sensitive and protective when it comes to crimes of this nature. There are no two ways about it – rape is rape. It is never justified no matter where the victim was or what he or she was wearing. There is no credible or conclusive evidence to suggest that a rapist wouldn’t have raped a victim if she was covered from head to toe. Suggesting in any way, shape or form that a victim could have somehow prevented the crime if she had behaved in a different way or wore a longer skirt is misguided.

Why then did one of the police officers ask female students be mindful of their attire in order to not attract unwanted attention from sexual perpetrators? Are members of the male sex so depraved that they cannot bear the sight of female flesh without raping?

While the officer in question may not have been intentionally victim blaming, his mind-set betrays an unconscious bias that it is somehow the victim that has unwittingly tempted the perpetrator. Are we still living in the last century where a woman is prided for her modesty and chasteness such that if you appear not to embody theses traits in full that you are somehow less of a “good” girl – that somehow you brought this upon yourself because you did not live up to a chauvinistic ideal of a “good” woman?

Perhaps our police force are policing with 19th century ideals when we are living in the 21st century. While I don’t blame any one specific police officer and have no doubt that they are trying their best, I do believe that they need to invest in more up to date methods. Perhaps more money needs to be spent on training and less on the most advanced equipment and weaponry.  

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