The Online Citizen

Booting out the (local) boys in blue – is that the key issue?

Booting out the (local) boys in blue – is that the key issue?
May 06
08:00 2014

By Howard Lee

Would you accept foreigners in your police force? That would seem to be the question raised by the people in charge of our police force, expressed at the recent Police Workplan Seminar.

Except that it is not nearly a question as it is an indicator of things to come. “We need, to some extent, some sensitivity to understand our foreign population,” Police Operations director Lau Peet Meng was cited as saying. “The danger is if it’s (purely Singaporean), you will lose touch with the people you’re policing.”

His remarks were supported, in a sense, by the findings of the Committee of Inquiry hearing for the Little India riot last year, where a shortage of manpower and the inability of officers to communicate with the alleged rioters were cited as reasons for the escalation of violence.

The response to the suggestion was, as expected, not generally supportive. Media reports indicated that more than half of the students who were invited to the workplan seminar were not in favour of the idea.

An article published by TOC on this issue also received comments that expressed misgivings about having foreigners in the police force. Some expressed concern about the loyalty of foreigners when protecting the home front, others lament on yet another excuse to increase the foreigner population.

Quite a few, and rightly so, identified that the real crux of the problem, the cause of the crunch in the numbers in the police force, was the poor pay that our police officers continue to receive.

These views were raised despite the recent increases in salaries for the home team. This suggests that the pay increase since 2012 has not lead to a significantly successful increase in the recruitment of the right talent.

The decision to turn to the foreigner option, then, is worrying, and I do not mean this from the perspective of having foreigners defending the home front or the ever increasing number of foreigners to our shores. This article is not about expressing xenophobic views, much as some like to portray that nowadays.

My concern about this move by the police force stems from what can only be perceived as subjecting the public service to market forces – cost of labour goes up, increasing pay further would impact budget, so let’s look for cheaper alternatives.

A police officer is not an object to be cheap-sourced. For that matter, neither should the rest of our human capital-intensive economy. If the government has learnt nothing about what made the people so angry with its immigration policy, then this incident is surely the clearest indication of that lack.

In addition, we are not here talking about any other production line worker, but our boys in blue. It is a public service rendered to the people, to which must necessarily be paid the highest respect, no less if not more so than the dignity accorded our Ministers. They risk life and limb keeping our country safe, and it is an absolute shame that we should ever consider them replaceable by the lowest bidder.

Instead, what has the Ministry of Home Affairs done to re-examine the operational cost of the home team? If there are any lessons that can be learnt from the Little India riot, would it not be that a seasoned, well-trained and ready pair of boots on the ground beats any technology that can be dreamed up, or even unnecessarily purchased?

For sure, the other argument would be that you need foreigners to police foreigners, because they will not “lose touch” with the ground. If that was a serious consideration, then seriously had the home team commanders erred.

Cultural sensitivities in a large country such as China or India are so diverse geographically that it would be wishful thinking to believe that a foreigner from such a country – any part of such a country, for that matter – can be dropped in and assimilate better with the ground, compared to a Singaporean who has been well-trained and given enough time to establish relationships in his beat.

Instead, what has MHA done to ensure that officers get such ground time to better prepare themselves for contingencies? Are our police officers spending so much time behind the desk with paperwork that they can ill-afford the time to get in touch with the ground?

Clearly, there are a lot of factors to consider when thinking about how to get the most out our of our boys in blue. Cutting costs, outsourcing to foreigners for cheap numbers and a misguided notion that nationality leads to familiarity should not be factors to consider.

In his May Day rally this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was quoted by media as saying, “developing better workers and creating better jobs is our collective responsibility”. It would have been pure irony if the Ministry of Home Affairs did not take heed of the words of their commander in chief.

Image from AFP.

  • notanothernameicannotuse

    Just look at Ukraine where the Russian-sympathizing police in Odessa refused to rein in the pro-Russian troublemakers, resulting in greater loss of life.

    Will Malaysian police favour Malaysians? Don’t say it can’t or won’t happen because it is already happening in companies with Indian HR managers!

  • PikuChoo

    If we need foreigners to police foreign workers, would it also not make sense to have say a Minister for Foreigners to look after their interests in the government as well? Or is our PM Lee already fulfilling that role?

    • nelsonmandala

      placed limsiasuayed as min of foreigner..he is afterall a SPARETYRE

  • Arnold_Chong

    Online flak for Caucasian in road rage video
    Published on May 6, 2014

    A road rage incident involving a Caucasian has sparked the ire of netizens after a video of him pointing a middle finger at a motorist was circulated online.

    The 41-second clip, which was taken with an in-vehicle camera mounted on a car dashboard, was posted on online community website Singapore Reckless Drivers last Thursday.

    See more at:

    • Arnold_Chong

      Maybe they need a Caucasian police officer in situations like this?

      • Headless PM

        Like Eugene Tan said, reckless immigration is the mother of all problems. Now, they are creating another problem to solve a problem, instead of nipping the bud of the problems.

      • nelsonmandala

        wah ang mor tua kow? this remind me of the ole hongkong when i was workin in britain..many many polis senoir opicer hoped for a postout to hongkong as “ahsir” can make tons of undertable money somemore no nid to do it yourself..let the station sergeants do it for u

  • Thinker

    The govt is telling Singaporeans that if you want to attack other nationals, than recruit them as our defend force? Why waste energy on all these wayang? Surrender our land to them save all the trouble and headache.

    The problems faced by many SMEs today were because of reckless cheap foreign labours available. Now almost all these cheap SMEs became too addicted that if you tried to delink the SMEs from having such mentality and replaced cheap labour for innovation and productivity, you see those SMEs started to cry father cry mother about it. Do we not see the problems coming and now wanting to place our home security in the same dilemma in future.

    What if situation became worse and these foreign policemen were used as political tools to bash opposition supporters, or if Singaporeans were seen being abused by these foreign policmen because they have more authority over Singaporeans? Do our police commissioner not forsee these situation going to divide our country into internal war with the trivalest of all things unforseeable?

    Does this little red dot (most so of PAP) so useless that we need to rely on foeigners to control the fate of this country? Like Alex Au once wrote in his blog that PAP is a failed party and Singapore will fall if PAP continue to rule with flawed policies.

  • jessie

    Perhaps Singapore should have an administrative govt. and invite and pay experts to deliver
    the best in all fields. Why pay Ministers millions when you can get better brains globally if you are willing to pay? It will be better to pay Bill Clinton to work for Singapore than to have our PM and our Finance Minister. We will get work done in two areas instead of one and also save costs.

  • T Ong

    I was born here, studied here and gave up 2.5years of my life plus all the reservist time every year. NOW to be policed by men who were not born here and did not have to sacrifice anything for this country. Where is the fairness in this? How can I call Singapore my home when the people who will police me are foreigners and not my fellow countrymen? What’s going to happen next, are we going to allow FT to become MP?

  • AngCherLing

    Oh my goodness! Get foreigners to police us? This is really getting out of hands…

    All I can say is that you are creating another pitfall (to recruit foreigners) to solve our.police and home team manpower shortages …

    Instead of addressing the root problems, our govt is adding additives to fuel the fire !?!

  • Aung Kyaw Soe

    If a person can stay in a country, he can ask for things that he wants,
    live the way he wants, eat what he wants. That’s the meaning of life. He
    can, of course as an individual, not ask for it. People will think that
    he is crazy. That’s where power of mass come in. Government do not own
    the country, it is okay not being PM or president, that’s what rule
    should be. But as a human, he is entitled to live in the foreign country
    and there is nothing wrong with wishing to transform to common rules
    found in most countries. Police send a man to jail to scare him
    psychologically. Because getting surrounded by many people make you feel
    weak. Just say few hundreds can unite, they can send all those hundreds people to jail, then those policemen will feel uncomfortable, not those who get captured.

  • stulykan

    Great idea to outsource police! And in the same vein, please outsource NS so my sons don’t have to serve. You can pay these soldiers from India and China and Malaysia the same $600 pm our NS men get.

  • jessie

    The Army can be used to help the police . We are not at war so this will be a better option as all
    will be blue Singaporeans instead of employing foreigners to police our Nation. Ministers,
    please think Singaporean and flush out foreigners from your mind.

  • Jake Tan

    This govt’s behaviour paralleled the Brit colonial govt in the past. Growing Chinese coolie population? Let’s recruit some Chinese into the police force to better police them. A normal nation state will think about sending officers for training to understand the cultures of those they’re policing. Not so this govt which had a colonial way of governing.