EARNEST LIM: To detain or not to detain isn’t the question. Rather, it’s a matter of tactics when it comes to the case of the NEA officer who allegedly hugged an errant lady smoker to prevent her from escaping his dutiful clutches.
Apparently, the lady lit a cigarette at Suntec City outside of the designated smoking area, and tried to make a dash for it when NEA officers demanded her particulars.
The lady says that she told the officer who approached her that she didn’t have her NRIC with her, and walked back into the building, headed for her office (no word as to whether she was still holding the lit cigarette).
But another officer hugged her from behind as she was about to enter the gantry, touching her breasts and leaving her feeling humiliated.
The lady said the officer didn’t show her his NEA identification pass.
She added that she then boarded a taxi to leave the scene, but the NEA officers stopped the taxi from leaving.
It’s unclear what happened next, but she says her husband arrived and they left to make a police report.
The NEA has disputed her account without elaborating further.
So amidst all the attention-grabbing salacious details (i.e boob grab, evil gahmen trying to tekan innocent lady, and the likes…), was the behavior of the NEA officers right?
Yes, and no.
For those who think that NEA officers can’t arrest you, they can!
By law, they have the power to detain you if you refuse to give them your particulars so they can saman you later, or if they believe that you have given them false particulars (i.e “sorry, no NRIC, but my name is Saddam Hussein” when your actual name is Ah Huat).
This is what’s written in the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act (Chapter 310)
“Powers of police and authorised officers
4.—(1) Any person reasonably suspected of having committed an offence under this Act may be arrested without warrant by any police officer or authorised officer and produced before a District Court or a Magistrate’s Court. [4/2002]
(2) Notwithstanding any other written law, any police officer or authorised officer who, having effected an arrest in accordance with subsection (1), is satisfied as to the identity, name and place of residence of the person arrested may, instead of producing such person before a District Court or a Magistrate’s Court or to a police station, serve upon such person a notice in such form as may be determined under section 9 requiring the person to attend at such Court, at such time and on such date as may be specified in the notice. [4/2002]
(3) For the purpose of satisfying himself as to the identity of the person arrested, the police officer or authorised officer may require such evidence of identity as he may consider necessary to be furnished by that person.”
How can NEA officers face the smirks of smokers behind them if they just let a culprit scoot off scot-free?
But as for the alleged bear hug, now that’s going a bit over-the-top just to meet quotas lah.
A policeman I spoke to says he hardly even dares to touch female subjects, much less grab them.
He said that it’s protocol that female police officers arrest female subjects, and that he would call for backup if a female officer wasn’t around.
Only in the most dire of situations would he make a move to effect arrest.
The reason is simple – to prevent such career-wrecking allegations from arising.
So – a matter of the NEA improving the way it deploys and educates its officers?
To say that the lady smoker deserved such boob-grabbing treatment (if true) is wrong, but it doesn’t absolve her from blame.
At best, her account seems dodgy, and at worst, a pack of lies:
-come down from office to smoke
-refuse to give particulars and make a run for it
-try to take taxi and flee
-no further details given
-make police report with husband
Either way, smokers, just give your NRIC to the “evil NEA officer” and pay the S$200 fine (for first-time offenders) if you get caught.
No point getting into a scrap when the law isn’t on your side.
Just remember that Twilight Zone song everytime you feel like lighting up where you’re not supposed to:
“I’ve got a feeling, somebody’s watching me…”