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SPF should build strong community partnerships in cyberspace

By Ravi Philemon

The Online Citizen (TOC) sent in the following opinion to The Straits Times (ST) Forum on 30 March 2010. At the time of putting this up on TOC, ST had not responded if they would put this up in their papers. So, we publish our opinion in full here.

On March 29, I emailed the Commissioner of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), CP Ng Joo Hee in my capacity as the Joint-Chief Editor of The Online Citizen, enquiring about the report on Bangkok Post titled, “Candy's special customers: the bribe-taking, sex hungry policemen”.

In the email, I enquired if the report in Bangkok Post was true and if true, had the SPF identified these rogue officers and what action(s) have been taken against them.

On March 30, I received a reply from Mr Paul Tan, the Quality Service Manager of SPF.  In his email reply Mr Tan said that my enquiry was receiving due attention and that SPF will reply me in due course.

I was relieved to read in ST on 31 March, that responding to questions from The Straits Times, SPF confirmed that the officers mentioned in the article were not members of SPF and that the allegations by Bangkok Post against the officers of SPF are unsubstantiated.

It is inevitable that even a highly reputable force like the SPF will have some rogue elements in them.  And SPF has rightly dealt with such rogue officers in the past in a firm manner and in accordance to the law; for the integrity of SPF could only be maintained by flushing out such officers and exposing them for the sake of openness and accountability.

But what troubles me is, why did SPF choose not to respond to the queries of TOC on this issue, but was quick to respond to ST?

No doubt ST is a mainstream media and SPF may have deemed that there is a greater urgency in disseminating appropriate information to them on this issue, but could not SPF have extended the same courtesy to TOC, in the interest of letting as many people as possible know that there was no basis to the allegations of Bangkok Post.  After all, the issue concerns the incorruption of SPF and they should have made use of as many platforms as possible to put this message through.

Net-savvy citizens are often the first to read such articles in cyberspace and the writers at TOC (even though being all volunteers) often take it upon ourselves to verify the authenticity of such news thoroughly before commenting on it, for the sake of keeping our readers responsibly informed.

SPF should have also used our platform to dispel that their officers are not implicated in this issue.

Come to think of it, what is SPF’s position on engaging Net-savvy citizens, especially Net-savvy citizens who put their real names, contact details and other personal information out there, when they raise such legitimate questions?

Even if SPF had not responded to the query of TOC appropriately and in a timely manner because we are not part of the mainstream media, they could have at least responded to me in my personal capacity.

Not every Net-savvy citizen reads the mainstream media and so SPF should not assume that by quashing such allegations on the mainstream media, they have done their part in denying such allegations.

With the rapid evolution of new media and the hastened, radical shift of media consumption from traditional media to new media, SPF should build strong community partnerships in cyberspace to spread crime alerts, crime prevention advisories and counter-terrorism messages.

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Afternote

After sending this email to Straits Times Forum, SPF responded to me via email on 1 April 2010. An officer by the name of Junaina Juhari acting for SPF’s Quality Service Manager responded to my query saying, with “regards to the queries that you have raised, kindly refer to Police's response published in the Straits Times, The New Paper and TODAY newspaper dated 31 Mar 2010”.

When I asked her if she would either confirm or deny the allegations of the article in the Bangkok Post without referring me to the mainstream media, she wrote back to apologise for assuming that I have access to the local media and quoted their response to the mainstream media:

In response to media queries on the Bangkok Post article dated 28 March 2010, “Candy's special customers: the bribe-taking, sex hungry policemen", Police spokesman Inspector Mohd Hamizyam said, "While the Police do not condone any acts of corruption and abuse of power, our investigations have revealed that the allegations made by Bangkok Post against our officers are unsubstantiated. Instead, one auxiliary police officer and three private security officers are currently assisting in ongoing investigations after the arrest of three men on 16 March 2010 for an offence under the Women's Charter."

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