Zeus Education Centre tutor Fiona Poh Min’s account of her police interview raises disturbing questions into the professionalism of our police force. While they may wish to illicit information from those they are interrogating, I am not sure that acts of aggression in the form of shouts and banging, threats with regards to the safety and health of family members of the interviewee are in line with international standards of policing. What about the old adage “innocent until proven guilty”?
Poh was clearly rattled and frightened by her experience. As a adult however, she is perhaps more able to handle the stress that comes with a traumatic encounter such as this. I wonder if this was the treatment that was meted out to teenager Benjamin Lim? As readers will be aware, Lim was a teenager who tragically committed suicide after an encounter with the police. If Poh was so distressed, I really cannot begin to imagine what Lim, a mere teenager must have felt . Clearly, the proceedings so distressed him that he decided to take his own life. A irreversible solution to an avoidable situation.
Are our police officers given adequate training to deal with different types of interviewees? Judging from the way they have spoken to Poh (assuming the accuracy of her descriptions), it gives the impression that our boys in blue only know one type of interrogation technique – that of treating everyone as a guilty hardened criminal who needs to be intimidated. If this is indeed the case, are our policing techniques adequate? Are we running the risk of false confessions?
For policing to be effective, it needs to understand and identify different scenarios and different interview methods. There are obviously differences between white collar crimes, crimes of violence and crimes involving adolescents or young children.
While the police have clearly spared no expense in getting the most up to date equipment, are we also focusing enough attention on the softer skills? Wielding guns and weaponry do not necessarily yield the best results. Often, they are unnecessary and counterproductive.
In the Lim case, allegedly police high handedness led to the suicide of Lim. Now, we will never know if a young girl was indeed molested. Worst still, a young man lost his life and all the potential he would have had as an adult. A family is left grieving and to what end? It was a complete waste of life which could have been avoided if more training had been provided to the police.
Looking at the police videos and recruitment posters, are we spending money on the right things? Is our view of policing too one dimensional?