“Who will police the police?”: Singaporean who allegedly suffered abuse at Cantonment Police Station seeks answers

Man at wits' end after no response from MP, Home Affairs Minister regarding incident a year ago

Update 30/6: Public statement by man allegedly abused by police officers, in response to SPF’s Facebook statement

A man who was allegedly abused by police officers at Cantonment Police Station in February last year despite passing his breathalyser test recently came forward with his experience, following unsuccessful attempts to seek an explanation from the police regarding the incident.

The man, who suffered physical injuries and sustained mental trauma after his ordeal, approached TOC regarding what had happened to him after his case was closed by the police and shunned by the mainstream media due to the sensitive nature of the matter exactly one year ago.

His plea for assistance was met with silence from Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam after the Minister assured the nation that the Ministry of Home Affairs will take disciplinary action against any police officer who is involved in any form of misconduct in carrying out their duties.

A roadblock in Boon Keng in the early morning of 14 February last year was the starting point of the man’s nightmare when he was stopped and subsequently brought to the Cantonment Police Station, as the breathalyser test conducted then was not conclusive.

Prior to that, he was having supper at a coffee shop in Geylang with his friends. His friends had later suggested going to a pub as it was the night before Valentine’s Day.

“I said okay, but I told them that I’m driving, I’m not going to drink,” he told TOC.

They went to the pub at around 1 am. While his friends consumed alcohol, the man said he simply “enjoyed their company”.

However, just as the pub was closing, the man’s friends coaxed him into drinking.

“So I think I took a glass or two of beer, then after that, we waited until the lights were back on and we went back home.”

“I drove back as usual … I could still control the wheels,” he said.

After the man was stopped at the roadblock near his home, he was told that his car will be towed away and that police will be bringing him to the station for a second test at the station.

“I told them I only had one or two glasses. I was still quite sober. I did not create any scene, I did not argue with them,” he said.

However, according to the man, the police officers insisted on taking him to Cantonment Police Station for further tests.

He observed that none of the police officers present at the roadblock in Boon Keng and who had stopped him there had escorted him to the Cantonment Police Station.

The man was also given an incomplete questionnaire to take back when it ought to have been kept by the officers at the roadblock.

“It was only one police van driver, and then another guy … I chatted with him, I think he’s a Cisco (officer),” he said.

The man reached Cantonment Police Station at nearly 4 am.

He described the officer who attended to him during the multiple breathalyser test as being “very nice”.

After the fourth round of tests, the man passed the test at the station.

“The receipt (was) printed out (showing) the result. The officer told me, ‘It’s 31.’ I asked him, what does 31 mean? He said 31 means pass,” he said.

Although he was initially given the assurance that he could leave within half an hour, several police officers threw him into a padded cell despite his vigorous protests, highlighting that he suffers from claustrophobia.

“When they brought me to a small room there, they did not specifically tell me that I was put under arrest,” he said.

According to the man’s estimation, six to eight officers had allegedly manhandled him after being pushed to the cell, handcuffed to a wheelchair.

He was then purportedly forced into the cell and pinned to the ground in the said cell.

“One fella was using their elbow onto my neck … I really couldn’t breathe. They started to kick me, using unnecessary force. One guy — I don’t know who — stepped on my feet,” he recalled.

This resulted in injuries that were documented in a medical examination he went through after the incident.

TOC notes that the man is unsure of the exact number of police officers involved due to his psychological state at the time of the incident. However, he said he was sure that there were more than five officers at the time the alleged abuse took place.

He was also made to relieve himself at a corner after the police failed to attend to his request to go to the toilet.

“One of the Chinese officers, I can remember, he opened a small window. He looked at me, and he giggled. He gave me a sinister smile before shutting the window,” he said.

The man said he waited for another 10 minutes before having no choice but to relieve himself in the cell.

Throughout the period of over three hours, the man suffered in the cold as he was only wearing his polo shirt and shorts.

“No extra clothing, no blanket. And the air cond(itioning) was so powerful. I had to curl up myself,” he recalled, adding that the police also took away his sandals.

The man was also not given anything to drink or eat at the time.

“No drinks, no food. The officer asked me if I wanted to have cup noodles. I said, ‘Yes, please’. But until the time they released me, no food was provided,” he said.

The man also suffered panic attacks due to his claustrophobia — a condition acknowledged by the Seng Kang General Hospital back in Dec 2018 as he had to be sedated in order to perform an MRI scan.

He pointed out that his heart was beating at an intense rate, much higher than the 120 beats per minute documented by the medical officer prior to him being thrown into the cell.

The medical officer, however, had allegedly said that the man’s heartbeat rate was fine and left him as he was.

“I told myself, ‘I don’t want to die here. I don’t want to die inside this cell’. And I kept on praying and praying,” the man said.

He pointed out that the officers did not attend to his plea of help and that he was not allowed to make a call to his wife, leaving her to worry about his well-being and whereabouts.

During the three over hours of being in the cell, no one attended to his wellbeing. It was only after the man had made another call for assistance that the officers attended to him.

By the time he was brought out of the cell, the man had no strength to properly walk on his own and had to be physically supported by two police officers — one of them allegedly being among those who had abused him.

When asked if he gave feedback or remarks to the police officers involved in his detention, the man said, narrating what he told them: “I did not commit any offence and you purposely put me into the cell…”

“I’m not drunk. I passed my test. Why do you have to do this to me?”

“And he just kept quiet. He did not argue with me,” said the man, referencing an officer who had at one point offered him cup noodles while he was held in the cell but did not follow through with the offer.

“I told him, ‘I want to complaint against you because you are abusing your power’.”

After being released, the man went back home to wash up before making a police report at a police station about alleged abuse that he suffered at the Cantonment Police Station as instructed by the 999 call centre.

At the station, he was given a medical report form for documenting complaints of violence before visiting his GP to document his injuries.

Medical report on 14 Feb 2020

In the medical report, it is noted that he suffered various injuries on his hands and legs.

The GP had certified that the injuries were not self-inflicted and that they were the result of blow(s) from a blunt object (eg, stick, fist, foot and etc) within a day of the examination.

The GP also certified that the pattern of injury was consistent with the account given by the man.

At the bottom of the medical report, it can be seen that a police officer had acknowledged the form on the day itself.

TOC has written to the police to ask if it recorded any injuries suffered by the man prior to being placed in the cell. However, no response has been received so far.

Information about the incident and photos of his medical report were provided to the Senior Investigation Officer assigned to his complaint, whom he said he had to chase for updates on the case.

Other than making a police report, he also raised this matter to Jalan Besar MP, Heng Chee How. While Mr Heng wrote a letter to the police, no further action was taken by the MP regarding the matter.

The police in a letter acknowledged to the man that it was aware of Mr Heng’s letter of representation and said that the man’s feedback “is currently receiving our attention”.

In June 2020, the man was told that the footage from the day of the incident was reviewed. The police gave their version of what transpired that day, supposedly from the officers involved in the alleged abuse.

No detailed mention of the footage was ever stated in the letter to the man. TOC has asked about this.

We also questioned what investigation is the police referring to, in its letter, since the man has already passed his breathalyser test. However, we received no response on these issues.

Touching on why he decided to bring his story to the media, the man said: “The reason why I want to contact the press is that I feel that I was being treated very unfairly.”

The newspapers the man had approached to cover his story allegedly closed his case, despite him giving them all of the necessary information and having photographs taken at his house.

The man said that he had even approached a lawyer for advice.

“The lawyer straight away told me, ‘You are trying to sue the Singapore Police Force … This is going to be very draggy and tedious’ … So even a lawyer can tell me such a thing, that they are worried to challenge (alleged police misconduct). How about us as laymen?”

“They are so afraid of the police … So actually, who will police the police?” The man questioned.

It was only after TOC was reported in the news recently that the man was prompted by his relatives to seek help from TOC to raise the issue as he had nowhere else to turn to.

The man had earlier written twice to the Minister of Home Affairs, K Shanmugam on 2 June and 9 June this year, asking for help to look into his case but was met with no response.

TOC is also met with similar silence as the police have also yet to respond to any of our queries sent on 14 June, at the time of publication.

However, it is clear that the police are well aware of our attempts to seek their comments on the matter, as the police have tried to contact the man for a further interview just last week.

The man declined to entertain such police interviews, as all information pertaining to the alleged abuse has already been submitted to the police last year.

Additionally, the police had already closed the case. Furthermore, the police ought to have the relevant footage for their own review purposes.

The man noted that there were surveillance cameras in the cell and at the entrance of the cell he was forced into, which means that the incident ought to have been clearly captured on the footage.

Touching further on his decision to continue speaking up regarding his ordeal, the man said: “Last time, maybe we’re talking about the 60s, 70s, the police can do anything they like in the lockup, in the cell. Nobody will challenge them. But right now, it’s the 21st century, and they are still using those tactics against somebody.”

“I just want to see justice moving forward. I don’t want to see another person after me going through this kind of disaster.”

“Sometimes I was thinking that you know, the next person will go through (this) tremendous horror. After the case, I cannot sleep every night,” he lamented.

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