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Thursday July 25th 2019

Malays the target of police spot-checks – is it true?

Truly, I have not being spot-check before by any police patrol in my whole life and wouldn’t know how the experience is like but it must feel degrading and embarrassing.

As most police patrol search occurs in our crowded MRT stations, one can imagine the shame and shock at being singled out for a random police spot-check among the thousands of commuters passing by our MRT stations hourly.

The first question I ask myself if I am being spot-check one fine day in future is “Why me? What did I do? Is my botak head standing out from the rest of the with-hair commuters?”

Do I look criminal in my outlook which fits the profiling probes of the police who in all likelihood must have being trained to look out for random character that fits a certain personality warranting the unwelcomed pick-out.

It makes the person stood out like a sore thumb and in our Asian face-valued culture, the glaring stares from the public must have make us feel we want to be swallowed up by the earth – even though we are innocent and try to be a law-abiding citizen!

Many comments have followed the surfacing of  a video of this Malay commuter retorting back at the police spot-check in the MRT station Рthat Malays are being singled out for police random spot-check and thus there is some racial profiling going on unknowingly.

My personal experience also shows that 8 out of 10 people pulled out for police spot-check that I have encountered featured Malays and rarely do I see a Chinese gets the pick-up. I don’t know if this group belongs to¬† foreign Malays from Malaysia, Indonesia or only our own country but they seem to be the typical profile I saw.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not against the police doing their work as it keeps our country safe and I must admit that sometimes their strong presence in and around our busy commuting train system has made me proud of how much we treasure and want to preserve the tranquility here.

However, for the typical Malays – especially those with long hair and revealing tattoos, going to work via the train station must have being a miserable daily chore when they know that their mere appearance fits the typical spot-check profile that the police is after. You are constantly vigilant and ready to make a U-turn whenever you spot the men in blue on their rounds.

Recently, a SMRT Malay technical staff has written in to us stating that despite donning on work clothes and baring a SMRT badge, he has received six spot-check just this year alone so much so that he has to demand a late excuse chit from the police as he was late for work after each search which can go on for 15 to 30 minutes.

For those at the receiving end, life can be miserable if your appearance fits the spot-check profile: “But sometimes I wonder why they target during morning peak hour – don’t they know that people are rushing to work and they need to train themselves too about people’s appearance and acting suspiciously,” the SMRT Malay technical staff wrote.

The police has not so far reveals the kind of profile they are targetting for random spot-check though they have vehemently denied that Malays are being targetted.

In a CNA report on the same issue, the police commented: -

“The police would like to assure the public that our officers are impartial in their checks, and are trained to carry them out professionally,” said SPF.

“We hope that the public can understand and appreciate the need for such checks, which ensures the safety and security of commuters, and will cooperate with the officers as they carry out their responsibility.”

It further added 720 arrests were made last year and that majority of the arrests were for serious crimes “such as the possession of dangerous weapon and drugs, as well as having a warrant of arrest issued against them.”

There is some ambiguity here regarding the rationale for police random spot-checks now as the general belief among the population is that such search revolves round anti-terrorism matter – since when do checks involve drug-related and gang-related matters? Aren’t the CNB and CID better suited for such jobs?

The police needs to be clear about the role of such random checks as it also inconveniences the public when some gets picked for a search  and especially when a particular racial segment which fits the typical profile for checks feels targetted.

There is also a loud outcry for the publicising of specific data of police random searches to debunk the myth that the Malay community is being targetted for spot-checks to rest the matter once and for all – if not whenever a Malay is being handpicked among the hundreds lining up a train platform for spot-check the racial card will always come to mind.

Moreover, this article won’t be written if I regularly see a mixture of Chinese, Eurasian, Indian and Malay being picked for police spot-checks – it only began to irk alot when I usually spotted only my fellow Malay countrymen marched off by three to four police officers for a random search.

The whole spectacle disturbs me as I witnessed a particular race being racially profiled for such check and if we want to progress as a nation together, we must ask ourselves are we doing the right thing here – in the name of national security?

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Editor’s note: If the police feels that this article may disrupt racial harmony, please notify me via email so that I can withdraw it immediately.

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