Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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Father with dementia, forced to confess to a offence by police

The following experience was submitted to TOC by a member of the public, and as the mentioned case is still under investigation, a couple of details have been omitted for privacy reasons.
L recounts the story of her father who was investigated by the police for an offence he clearly did not commit
The story of 14-year old Benjamin Lim who jumped to his death after unaccompanied police interrogation is the by-product of a relentless abuse of power by the Singapore Police Force that has gone unchecked over the years.
My father has had dementia for the past four years, and he lost his ability to make any sound decisions or engage in any meaningful conversation two years ago. Last August, a huge team of 6 to 7 police officers came down to my house to apprehend my father for a spate of theft cases that have been happening in my neighborhood for the past month.
My family immediately advised the investigating officer that it was not possible for my father to be involved in this crime because of his illness, and he would definitely be unable to answer any of the officer’s questions due to his inability to comprehend any conversation.
However, without explaining the nature of the crime, nor accounting to the family members, the investigating officer brought my dad back to the police station, ignoring our protests and insistence that he was unfit to be kept in detention.
A week after my dad was released, we were still struggling to figure out what was going on. The investigating officer had made no attempt to communicate with the family, despite repeated reminders to the officer that my father had no capacity to be in interrogation and that the officer should be talking to my dad’s immediate family members.
The investigating officer said: “This is all part of protocol.” We later discovered that “protocol” meant that mentally ill patients could be freely interrogated by a group of police officers from 2 pm to 4am, with the police officer repeatedly telling him: “Sign this document, and everything will be alright”. My father was FORCED to sign a statement confessing to the crime before he was allowed to be released on bail. He told us that he spent the entire night shouting “I am innocent” through the bars of the jail cell.
Three months later, a separate investigation led to a thief being apprehended in the neighborhood, and the thief was linked back to my father’s case. A police officer visited us and asked my father, “Why did you confess to a crime which you did not commit?”. My father didn’t respond. He had no idea what the police officer was even saying.
If the real thief had not been apprehended, my father would just be yet another victim of this intolerable abuse of power. Why is the Singapore Police Force allowed to run unchecked when investigating minors and disadvantaged citizens in this society? If this is “protocol”, then perhaps it is time to revisit this “protocol”. How many more “Benjamin Lim” incidents do we need before the Singapore Police Force realizes the need for a change in protocol?

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