By Yong Wen Wei, Edwin & Syam Roslan (Photos: Public Affairs Department and Police Operations Command Centre)
The emergency number “999” is synonymous with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) today. It serves as the hotline for members of the public to dial when they require emergency assistance. Police radio communications have indeed come a long way since its early days of using scavenged equipment left behind from World War II. Today, the SPF constantly looks to integrate new technologies and processes to develop its response and incident management capabilities to support our frontline operations. Police Life provides readers with an overview of how our command and control coordination and capabilities have evolved, and what lies beyond 2020.
1940s - Radio Division
The Radio Division can be traced back to 1945, when the SPF began trialling the use of radio equipment found after the end of World War II. It was originally known as the “Gangs and Radio Sub-branch” within the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and was started to help combat armed gangsters. Colloquially, officers referred to it as the “Radio Branch”. The use of radio communication quickly proved its effectiveness beyond the ambit of CID as crime evolved and took different shapes. In 1946, police reinforcements summoned to tackle the illegal labour union procession arrived in just eight minutes. This unprecedented milestone then allowed the police to bring the escalating situation swiftly under control. Having proven its effectiveness, the use of radio was implemented force-wide, and the Radio Branch soon grew to become the Radio Division in 1948.
1950s - Combined Operations Room
During the Malayan Emergency in 1951, there was a dire need for joint operations between the Police and military forces to fight communist insurgents, which led to the formation of the Combined Operations Room (COR). Housed in a bomb-proof structure at Pearl’s Hill, COR was equipped with then state-of the-art radio communications systems. To better coordinate Police and military joint operations during the period of social unrest, Chief Minister David Marshall officially launched COR in 1956. It quickly became the nerve centre for central oversight of policing operations across the island. “999” calls were connected via a manual telephone switchboard, and officers used paper forms and tele-printer machines that looked like typewriters to dispatch resources. COR played a critical role in managing events that rocked Singapore, such as the 1956 Chinese middle school riots and the race riots of 1969.
2000s - COR @ New Phoenix Park
In 2001, COR moved to the Police Headquarters (PHQ) at New Phoenix Park. Officers were equipped with better communication devices and computer systems. Command structures also improved, with COR providing oversight and coordination with Divisional Operations Rooms (DORs).
2015 - Formation of the POCC
In 2015, COR migrated to a new building and was renamed the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC). Officially launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, this marked a major milestone in the development of SPF’s operational capabilities. POCC, which falls under the purview of the Operations Department, enables real-time incident management and sense-making, integrating people, technology and processes of operations, investigation and intelligence in managing live incidents.
In July 2018, the co-location of all six DORs onto a single watch floor in POCC was completed. Liaison officers from Central Narcotics Bureau, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority and Singapore Civil Defence Force were also deployed to the watch floor 24/7, with future plans to include specialist units such as Traffic Police and Public Transport Security Command in the pipeline.
On 5 July 2019, the first Commander of POCC was appointed by the Commissioner of Police. The POCC, now an independent Command, serves as the nerve centre for all police operations today. In addition to responding to “999” emergency calls, officers in POCC also triage information received through other public platforms (e.g. Police SMS 71999 and 70999 or i-Witness reports), monitor more than 70,000 CCTV cameras and dispatch ground resources where necessary.
A new journey has just begun, with POCC playing a major role within the overall concept of the Home Team Operations Centre (HTOC). The HTOC will bring together the operations centres of the SPF, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Immigration and Checkpoint Authority and Central Narcotics Bureau under one roof, where all will share a common situation picture, enabling closer interagency coordination when managing both routine and major incidents.
SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
19 February 2020 @ 3:28 PM