News Reports

Little India COI: A brave young man

For a guy who’s just 28, ASP Jonathan Tang seems a remarkably cool and level-headed young man in the face of a ever growing and boisterous crowd that night of the Little India riot.

Okay. Some people would probably think he had been “prepped’’ – or would that be witness tampering I wonder? Still, he had some great quotes/sound bites:

“It was a not situation where just because we had firearms, we would have won the war.’’       

He said this when asked why he didn’t fire a warning shot to disperse the crowd. He said he considered it but figured that it would enrage the crowd further. “It was a situation where revolvers were out of play,’’ he said. Plus there were too few cops on the scene, as far as he could see. He wouldn’t know because communication lines were jammed that night. He did consider spraying the crowd with water from the SCDF Red Rhino but “was told it had no water’’, according to a TODAY report.

“I don’t think there was much time to even think about being frightened.’’

He said this when asked if he was too scared to make arrests. It was a “considered’’ decision, he said, given how his group was outnumbered. And while people would think he and his group were “fleeing the scene’’ when they got into an ambulance and scooted off, that was “never his intention’’.

For what it’s worth, I believe him. Why?

a)     It can’t be easy to face down a hostile crowd that seemed to be growing in numbers and pelting him and the officers.

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b)    He had the presence of mind to get a rope from his car to form a makeshift cordon to let the SCDF officers get on with the job of extricating the dead man – although it wouldn’t have done much good if the crowd charged. But you wonder why he didn’t get the shield out instead…

c)     He got to his patrol car thinking he could ferry the bus driver and woman conductor to safety; and ended up picking up an injured SCDF and got him to an ambulance.

d)    That done, he went back to the scene to round up “stray officers’’ and got pelted on the head. By then the two people of the bus had been escorted to another ambulance

e)      He joined a group of 14 officers and they all got into an ambulance when they sensed the crowd was coming for them.  The ambulance already had its windscreen shattered and windows broken by then.

f)      The crowd was pelting bigger and bigger stuff and he wanted the ambulance to ram the patrol cars parked there which were blocking its way. In the end, the crowd did the favour of overturning a car and giving them an exit.    

g)     He was the one who called for Special Operations Command backup. I wish we also heard what exactly he said about this since earlier last week, the reason for the delay in SOC deployment was that the information was “sketchy’’.

He was asked about the police decision to “re-group’’ along Race Course Road instead of venturing into the crowd to make arrests. His answer: “It was a situation where we are surrounded by the crowd all around us. This should not be the case. We should be the ones to surround them, why are we putting ourselves in the centre of all of them?’’

Some interesting points – and some questions:

a)     That T-baton the police officers carry is a defensive weapon. The COI thought they should carry a lathi, which looks like a long pole. A good weapon? Although you wonder how the patrolmen are going to look on foot and carrying a big stick…

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b)    All the police shields that patrol cars carry were cracked that night…Wonder if the SOC shield is stronger…

c)      Is the Red Rhino supposed to carry water?

d)    What did he think about the late arrival of the SOC?   

e)     Was he the one who told Cisco officers to stop making arrests?

Like I said, I wasn’t at the COI but ASP Tang’s answers seemed to point to a man too busy making a million decisions in a short time to let fear get in the way.

He did a “wonderful job in the situation’’ he was in, COI chairman Pannir Selvam told him.

Give that man a medal! 

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