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Are Singapore’s Police Corrupt? Examining Abuse of Power and Integrity

Goh Jun Cheng

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) upholds law and order as the country’s principal law enforcement agency.

But are Singapore’s police corrupt?

This article examines the state of integrity within the SPF based on misconduct statistics, prevention mechanisms, and public perceptions.

Overview of the Singapore Police Force

  • The SPF oversees crime prevention, investigation and policing duties ranging from traffic enforcement to counterterrorism intelligence.
  • It comprises over 40,000 officers deployed across Police Land Divisions regionally, specialist divisions and the paramilitary Singapore Police Coast Guard.
  • Singapore’s low crime rate is often attributed in part to an effective, ethical SPF deterring criminal activity through enforcement and community policing.

Key Forms of Police Corruption

  • Police corruption includes abuse of authority for personal gain such as bribery, extortion, stealing crime proceeds or evidence tampering.
  • Other misconduct like unnecessary violence, falsely charging suspects, perjury, discrimination and sleeping on the job also constitute abuses.
  • In Singapore, the key corrupt practices include bribes from vice syndicates to turn a blind eye on illegal activities and protection of illegal gambling dens.

Past High-Profile Scandals

  • The SPF’s reputation was tarnished in the 1950s-60s by scandals implicating officers in bribery, extortion and brothel protection rackets uncovered by commissions of inquiry.
  • One inquiry found over 20% of officers guilty of corruption, prompting major clean-up efforts. However, dishonest practices still lingered through the 1970s.
  • This history of early corruption fed negative public perceptions. But the SPF has since reformed into a reliably upright force.

Robust Anti-Corruption Framework

  • The SPF tackles corruption through a comprehensive framework encompassing deterrence, detection and reform measures.
  • Stringent conduct rules bar unethical behavior with penalties for violations. Integrity officers proactively identify high-risk assignments and officers prone to misconduct.
  • Surveillance systems like mystery shoppers, random integrity testing, lie detector tests and data analytics uncover errant conduct. The Internal Affairs Office investigates public complaints thoroughly.
  • Training builds strong moral values. Counselling and suspensions reform deviant officers. Dismissal is certain for serious or repeat offenders.

Government Support for High Integrity

  • Singapore’s government strongly backs the SPF’s integrity framework through legislative provisions and funding.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act covers both bribery and official misconduct strictly. Even attempted corruption faces punishment. Independent bodies like the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau aid enforcement.
  • Good public sector pay benchmarks discourage financial incentives for bribery. Rules limit high-level police appointments to top civil servants to prevent patronage networks.
  • Strong political will to prevent policing abuses is reflected in comprehensive resourcing for integrity building and enforcement.

Transparent Public Complaints Handling

  • To address public concerns about police abuse, the SPF’s public complaints system follows transparent protocols making officers accountable.
  • Multiple reporting channels are available to lodge complaints including online, phone hotlines, letters, social media and directly to police stations. Action is compulsory for each public complaint received.
  • After impartial investigation, complainants get updates on investigation outcomes and follow-up actions taken. Disciplinary findings get listed in annual reports.
  • Maintaining responsive channels for public feedback deters malpractice by instilling accountability to citizens. Officers who breach rules face certain censure.

Use of Technology for Tracking

  • Extensive deployment of body-worn cameras, in-vehicle video systems and interview room recordings increase transparency and give little room for misbehavior.
  • Body camera footage provides evidence if complaints arise while protecting officers from false accusations. GPS vehicle tracking deters detours for personal errands.
  • With technology surveillance pervasive, officers have high certainty of being caught for violations, thus strengthening deterrence.

International Accolades

  • Singapore’s police force has an esteemed reputation globally for integrity and reliability. It outperforms most countries in Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer for citizens’ perception of police corruption.
  • International surveys like the World Justice Project also rank Singapore highly for absence of corruption in law enforcement and criminal justice.
  • Such international confidence signals that the SPF has overcome its past problems to become a trusted institution. Global partners now look to learn from Singapore’s anti-corruption success.

Public Perceptions of Integrity

  • Domestically, public perception surveys similarly reflect high levels of trust in the SPF as upright and incorruptible. Over 95% of citizens expressed confidence in police integrity in a 2021 survey.
  • While its past history still occasionally surfaces in public cynicism, a majority of Singaporeans now view the SPF positively as a reliable deterrent force against crime and violence.
  • Non-interference in politics and focus on community safety building have aided public confidence. The SPF is also perennially voted Singapore’s most trusted public institution.

Conclusion

In summary, comprehensive evidence points to the SPF achieving exceptional integrity standards today unmatched by many police agencies worldwide.

While risks remain requiring sustained vigilance, the systemic reforms and norms now established within the SPF make it a law enforcement agency of high trust and esteem.

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