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Expansion Of ICA’s Role in Border Security: First Responders to Security Incidents at The Land Checkpoints

               From 3 January 2023, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will take over from the Singapore Police Force (SPF), protective security (PS) functions at Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints. With this transition, ICA officers will be the first responders to security incidents at the land checkpoints.

2.             The taking over of the PS functions is the culmination of the transformation of ICA’s role in border security at the land checkpoints. It would enable ICA to achieve greater operational coordination and provide clearer lines of responsibility and command and control in border security incidents.

3.             In the past few years, ICA has been laying the foundation for this expanded role, by training ICA officers to respond to security incidents, and leveraging technology. 

Equipping Officers with the Necessary Powers and Skills

4.             In April 2018, the Immigration Act (IA) was amended to allow ICA officers to conduct searches and arrest suspicious people within and in the vicinity of the checkpoints. Previously, ICA officers were only allowed to conduct searches within authorised areas, and had to wait for the arrival of police officers to attend to security incidents (e.g. to deal with persons in possession of arms or explosives). With the amendments to the IA, ICA officers have been empowered to intervene more decisively during a security incident and quickly contain the situation, without having to wait for the arrival of supporting forces.

5.             To date, more than 300 ICA officers at the land checkpoints have undergone PS training, to acquire skills that will enable them to be effective first responders to security incidents. The officers are trained in tactical movement, as well as interview and search techniques. They also undergo on-the-job training with their SPF counterparts. Refresher scenario-based trainings are conducted periodically to ensure officers’ skillsets are kept current.

Leveraging Technology  

6.             ICA has been leveraging technology to strengthen its command and control (C2) capabilities and enable its officers to better manage security incidents at the land checkpoints. ICA has collaborated with DSTA (Defence Science and Technology Agency) as the overall programme manager, and HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency), to equip the integrated operations centres (IOCs) at both land checkpoints with enhanced tactical, sense-making and decision support tools.

7.             The key features of the ICA C2 system include:

  • Single Integrated C2 System: All relevant data from multiple systems and sensors (e.g. CCTV systems) have been integrated into a single platform. Ground commanders thus have a better appreciation of the situation and are better equipped to make timely and well-informed decisions, when managing daily operations and security incidents.

Prior to this, they had to manually retrieve data from disparate sources.

  • Intelligent Video Management System: More than 3,000 surveillance cameras have been deployed at both land checkpoints. The cameras are equipped with video analytics capabilities to flag out anomalies to the IOCs in real-time, such as unattended baggage, abandoned vehicle and intrusion attempts. Officers will then deploy ground resources to attend to the situation.

Previously, identification of anomalies was dependent on manual monitoring of CCTVs and patrolling of the checkpoint premises. The camera feeds also had to be manually retrieved.

  • Real-Time Tracking of Ground Forces: This capability allows ground commanders at IOCs to view the real-time location of ground officers and deploy the nearest officers to the incident site for a swifter response. Officers are equipped with a mobile device and body-worn camera to provide instant situational updates via texts/images/videos and allow live streaming to the IOCs. With better appreciation of the ground situation, commanders can better determine the actions to take as the situation evolves.

Previously, ground commanders could only rely on voice communications to ascertain the location of officers and for situation updates. 

8.             To validate the response plan in the event of a security incident, a multi-agency ground deployment exercise codenamed “Genesis” was conducted at Tuas Checkpoint on 16 November 2022. More details of the exercise can be found in Annex A.

16 NOVEMBER 2022

Annex A: Exercise Genesis: Validating ICA’s Operational Readiness

              To validate the response plan in the event of a security incident, a multi-agency ground deployment exercise codenamed “Genesis” was conducted at Tuas Checkpoint on 16 November 2022.

2.             More than 200 personnel from ICA, SPF and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) participated. Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, and key appointment holders from the Home Team observed the exercise.

3.             The exercise scenarios depicted coordinated armed attacks with active shooters at the Arrival Car Zone and Arrival Bus Zone, resulting in multiple      casualties and injuries to both officers and travellers. ICA’s First Response Team officers moved in quickly to engage the gunmen and contain the threat.

4.             The second wave forces from SPF’s Ground Response Forces and Emergency Response Teams, as well as the Armed Strike Teams from the Gurkha Contingent, also responded, providing additional firepower to neutralise the remaining gunmen. SCDF’s emergency responders conducted rescue and evacuation of the casualties once the area had been secured.