The pandemic has created a new appreciation in us for some frontline workers and unsung heroes, such as cleaners, healthcare workers and bus captains. However, it seems like a particular group of people may have been left out of the mix – security officers.
Security officers are facing more abuse during Covid
Contrary to the appreciation that people have poured out for other frontliners, security officers are receiving increased abuse from the public during the pandemic! According to a survey conducted by the Union of Security Employees (USE) which polled 1002 officers, 40 per cent said they had encountered abuse between September and November 2020. This is a 10 per cent increase compared to a study conducted between January and February 2020, when Covid-19 measures were much lighter.
USE executive secretary Steve Tan said that trying to enforce Covid-19 safety measures can be tough. “Telling people to put on a mask or stop smoking and chatting can be confrontational as the job is to enforce measures and get the public to follow the rules,” he said.
Thankfully, a Bill was passed in Parliament on 5 Oct to better protect officers, which introduces heavier penalties for those who abuse security guards on duty.
Being kind because it’s the right thing to do
Beyond the fear of heavier penalties, we think that Singaporeans should be kind and respectful towards security officers simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Reliance Security Services (RSS) operations manager Jeremiah Wang, 28, has had to double up as a security officer over the Covid-19 period due to a shortage of manpower. He said disputes with residents at condominiums have been more frequent, often because they flout Covid-19 measures.
RSS managing director Mack N. Nambiar said abusive residents often do not face consequences as most managements take the side of their tenants and prefer not to cause a stir. He said the usual outcome for many officers in a conflict is to be swopped out at the request of the management.
Security officers often “give in” and don’t “fight back”
Despite being unfairly treated sometimes, most security officers in Singapore are professional and aware that they need to keep their cool. Nevertheless, this does not mean that cases of abuse go unreported. Security officers are protected by law and it’s definitely not acceptable for uncooperative members of the public to abuse them.
In such cases, reports of abuse are made to the police. Security supervisor Muhamad Faizal had to report five cases of abuse against officers at Lucky Plaza to the police, including one where a cyclist knocked a female officer over when she told him he could not stop by the roadside.
Mr Faizal said, “If we turn people away, they scold us. Sometimes they try to assault us. Usually if it is a small matter we try to settle it ourselves, but sometimes we have to call the police. But I know I can’t fight back because if I do, I could lose my licence.”