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News Reports

Moral policing?

I rather enjoyed reading The Sunday Times’ article on Singapore’s top cop, Commissioner Ng Joo Hee. He seemed to have led an exciting life, policing Liverpool matches, sitting in a black-and-white in Los Angeles with an American beat cop (ate doughnuts!) joining the British inspectors for a course in the UK. Then of course, peace-keeping missions in Cambodia and setting up the police Special Tactics and Rescue or Star unit with former members of the British Special Air Service.

So exciting, I thought. Then I got down to the last few paragraphs of the article:

Another battle he fights, aside from crime, is corruption, which he addressed in a recent message to his officers, saying: “From the moment we choose to wear police blue, we also choose to live by a special code.”
It is the same code which he believes former colleague Ng Boon Gay broke when he was charged and put on trial for corruption last year.
“Boon Gay has been found not guilty… but certainly his acts are reprehensible,” he says. “He has broken every one of our values and he has tainted the whole police force by his behaviour and that is very disappointing.”

Now, I wonder why it was necessary for him to say that about his erstwhile colleague (or is Mr Ng still on the force?). Perhaps, he was asked for his view and sought to give a politically correct answer. Sure, policemen must not and cannot be corrupt. And if Mr Ng (the Commissioner) wants to give examples, there are plenty he could have chosen from, outrightly guilty officers who want sex from prostitutes in return for not turning them in for some crime to those convicted of taking under-table money. But Mr Ng (the ex-CNB chief) was singled out for mention instead, although as the Commissioner noted, he was not guilty by law.

By describing Mr Ng’s acts as “reprehensible’’ and that he broke a police code, I suppose the Commissioner meant that Mr Ng should not have been engaging in a sexual dalliance with a woman who is not his wife – or with another man’s wife.

I suppose I can understand a code which says that a policeman should not commit adultery with another policeman’s wife. I can even understand, even if it is not a good thing, if policemen believe they should protect their own (obviously this is not the case here). And I would definitely rather that the police code embraces a value like, every crime is worth our time (rhymes too!) An honour code that I believe exists among soldiers is to leave no man behind – not bad at all. Then there is a journalist’s code to get to the truth without fear or favour – which can be pretty tough to uphold.

In this case, we are talking about a policeman, not a priest. And when we say we want a “good’’ cop, it means we want an able person who enforces law and order. I am not sure I care if the cop indulges in something on the side; but I would care if a cop is slip shod in his investigations, turns a blind eye to some crimes, thinks some types of crime are not worth his time and can’t crack a case in his whole career. I would care if a cop’s work is not up to scratch so much so that a wrong person gets convicted or if he clearly took a bribe to let someone off the hook.

So Mr Ng had an affair and the court seems to agree it was just that – an affair, whether loveless or not. Seems gratuitous for the Commissioner to weigh in after he’s been cleared.

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Mr Ng’s past – he probably has a similarly exciting story to tell like the current commissioner – seems to have been forgotten, like he’s an embarrassment. I wonder how many drug syndicates he’s busted, and how many criminals he’s put behind bars while he headed up the Criminal Investigation Department. I wonder if he received any medals in his career. The man dashed his career with his sexual indiscretions not because he was corrupt. He should have, to use a police term, covered his tracks properly (Maybe that makes him a bad policeman?)

In light of his reply on Mr Ng, the Commissioner was asked if his stand was that every police officer must be beyond reproach. He said: “The public expects it and that’s why this is more than any ordinary job. You want to do this job? It’s different, it’s tough.”

How he came to this conclusion on the expectations of the public, I don’t know.

You know, I can (more or less) understand political parties giving philandering members a wide berth, to the point of prompting an election. We are rather more conservative than other countries which give even presidents with a wandering eye (and hands) a pass. That’s because political parties campaign on a platform of moral integrity. I doubt that policemen signed up to be politicians and priests.

In any case, I don’t suppose the Commissioner, in describing Mr Ng’s acts as a taint on the force’s reputation, will be embarking on a “clean-up’’ exercise to police the moral standards of his men.
But if he does take action, good luck to him then. I wish him all Herculean strength.

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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