Singapore: Specialist police forces from around the world are visiting Singapore this week to exchange expertise and intelligence, and also observe the Republic’s counter-terrorism measures.
The inaugural Police Specialist (Polspec) Conference Singapore was launched on Wednesday (Nov 28) by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, at the Amara Hotel.
Organised by the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the three-day conference brings together 17 law enforcement agencies from 13 territories – including Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong and the United States – to exchange views and information on policing issues, and discuss topics such as enhancing international cooperation in combating terrorism.
Among those hoping to take home new ideas from the conference is First Commissioner Jean-Pierre Devos, head of the Intelligence Unit of the Federal Police of Belgium, who will be visiting SPF facilities, such as the Home Team Tactical Centre and Police Coast Guard Brani Base.
First Commissioner Jean-Pierre Devos was on duty at the Brussels Airport in March 2016 and helped victims after suicide bombers Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui struck in the departure hall, killing 16 people.
“Maybe we can implement such infrastructure and training (back home), to improve our skills. I think that’s the key thing for these three days in Singapore,” he said.
When three suicide bombers killed 32 civilians at Brussels Airport and at a metro station in central Brussels, Belgium, in 2016, First Commissioner Jean-Pierre Devos was one of the first officers at the scene. As victims lay on the ground at the airport, some with missing body parts, he had difficult decisions to make. Does he save the dying or find other possible terrorists before they killed more people?
“The biggest challenge for me personally is that, on the one hand, you are a police officer. But on the other hand, you have victims on the ground screaming for help.”
He said he faced a dilemma: focus on police operations or help the victims. In the end, Commissioner Devos chose to help the victims.
He said: “To be honest, I am a human being first. I went for the victims, and then I did my police job.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police Arthur Law, deputy director in the SPF Operations Department, said the conference lets specialist units around the world exchange ideas.
“In Singapore, we have the Home Team Tactical Centre where we can offer them training ground,” he said. “In the same vein, we can send our forces overseas for training sessions.
“To us, prevention is one of the key pillars in counter-terrorism. In order to do that, we need to establish an international community of partners, where we can come together and share ideas, information and intelligence. With this, we will be able to foil terror plots, which we have done so over the years.”
In his opening address, Mr Amrin noted that the nature of terrorism is evolving.
“We must recognise that our traditional methods of dealing with this evolved threat are becoming less effective.”
“We need to adapt and adjust our strategies accordingly.”
“Terrorists are attacking soft targets like places of worship, theatres and parks – anywhere that people gather,” he said. “They was to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. The focus is on causing bloodshed and mayhem. And not just bombs and guns, they are also using everyday objects like vehicles and knives.”
He added that Singapore’s national counter-terrorism strategy includes promoting international and intelligence cooperation, and developing a robust security response in the event of an attack, such as the police Emergency Response Teams and In-Situ Reaction Teams.