By: Gilbert Goh
The Coroner’s Inquiry is out on Benjamin’s case and there is nothing special about it. As expected, no one gets penalised and life goes on as usual.
We however hope to see swift changes meted out on how juveniles are being treated when they are hauled to the police station for interrogation.
A school counsellor must be accompanying any future juveniles to the station from now on; and it’s baffling why such basic requirement is not done at all in the first place. Hopefully, a lawyer is also allowed to be present during police interrogation. So far, a minor goes to such interrogation alone and without any adult accompaniment.
We are also probably the only country in the modern world where one is not allowed legal access during a police interrogation; and there is also no recording of any kind available during the session.
Unfortunately, it took the sacrifice of a person’s life before we can see some basic human rights restored in our society. I am sure no system in any modern country will allow this to carry on.
Several hundreds of school-going kids need to go to the police station each year for all kinds of reasons and many parents I am sure will now shudder to think what will cross their children’s mind if they are the targeted ones.
We are not on a wild witch hunt here but its good to go through thoroughly what kind of police protocol needs changing.
Most people view a police interrogation as very serious and for a child the implication is likely to be magnified manyfold. Its good to downplay the protocol system a bit here such as only sending two officers in plainclothes, instead of a big group of officers to the school. It’s puzzling why we need to have so many police officers targeting a young boy in a school environment. Are they afraid that he will run away or turn violent?
Our Police also needs to improve on their persona and image – they are often seen as stern and disciplinary in public. It is as if our officers are trained to scowl always and smile only when their duty is over.
In many countries that I have visited, police officers are not only helpful but often put on a smile. They carry out their law-enforcing activities efficiently but pleasantly.
We all need to work closely together as a country than against one another. We constantly see law-enforcing officers as our enemy and this mentality can change if they soften their image somewhat.
Benjamin’s death is not only tragic but perhaps avoidable and we must not let his death be in vain. Though no heads have rolled, changes to juvenile interrogation protocol must be in place as soon as possible.
My condolences also to the bereaved family who lost a dear son. I am sure no words can comfort them now.
RIP Benjamin. We are here for you!