Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?

Last updated on January 18, 2023

Police officers holding shields

The Singapore police can use force in different scenarios, but how and when do the police decide which force technique to apply?

This article will discuss the police use of force with reference to real-life examples in Singapore. It will cover:

What are the Different Types of Force Techniques Deployed by the Police? 

Depending on the situation, the police may employ non-lethal and/or lethal force.

Non-lethal force includes the use of verbal commands, unarmed tactics, batons, shields, and tasers. The following describes some equipment used in the exercise of non-lethal force:

  • Baton: A baton is a cylindrical club used for defence and counterattack. Police officers use the Straight Extendable Baton (SEB) to execute handling techniques. 
  • Shield: Officers use transparent shields to protect themselves during riots. They are used with other riot gear such as batons and tear gas grenades. 
  • Taser: The taser is an electroshock weapon that discharges a volt charge from a distance. This helps officers to subdue non-compliant persons in a non-lethal manner.

On the other hand, lethal force refers to the use of firearms such as pistols which can cause serious injury or even death. Officers are trained in the use of service pistols to handle situations requiring the use of lethal force. The pistol also features a safety mechanism to prevent accidental triggers.  

What are the Situations That Require Police Intervention/Use of Force? 

Police officers generally use force to make an arrest or handle threats to life and/or property. In making an arrest, force is used when the suspect is resistant or becomes violent. The police will not apply any unnecessary force if the suspect is compliant. 

Nonetheless, real-life situations are often unpredictable and police officers will have to assess and react accordingly.

When Might These Techniques/Use of Force be Required? 

When applying force techniques, police officers have to consider the proportionality of the force to be applied to the perceived threat, alongside the safety of the subject and the people in the vicinity and themselves. 

Proportionality refers to the idea that the use of force must not be overly excessive in relation to the threat. For instance, using a baton in the course of arresting a shoplifter who is violently resisting the arrest is  considered a proportionate response. Discharging a firearm at an unarmed shoplifter, however, is too excessive.

Officers often have to perform these judgements within seconds, without the benefit of a detailed analysis. 

Use of non-lethal force 

In cases where the suspect is violent (whether armed or unarmed) and non-compliant, police officers may choose to apply defence tactics, batons or tasers to first de-escalate and contain the situation. The following cases illustrate the use of non-lethal force.

Use of tasers

Case study 1: Taser used on a woman to stop her from further injuring herself

On 19 September 2022, a woman was seen brandishing a knife outside St Hilda’s Secondary School. When the police arrived, the woman stabbed herself in the abdomen and threatened to further harm herself. The woman disregarded verbal commands to withdraw the weapon and the police discharged a taser to prevent the woman from further harming herself and potentially others.  

In this case, the police officer considered the safety of the subject before employing non-lethal force to stop the harmful act.

Case study 2: Taser used on Beach Road chopper

On 14 April 2022, the police responded to a case of assault involving a chopper at 75 Beach Road. The attacker was slashing a woman with a chopper. Members of the public even intervened to stop further harm to the victim. When the suspect was located, police officers subdued him by deploying a taser on him. This illustrates how non-lethal force can subdue an armed and violent attacker.

In this case, the police had managed to corner the attacker within a restaurant where the safety of bystanders was not compromised. The suspect was also standing still with his arms outstretched. Deploying a taser is thus an appropriate and proportionate response. 

Use of police shields 

Police shields are primarily defensive in nature and are often used to deal with riots. They offer police officers protection against melee attacks and projectiles. By standing in rows, officers can form a wall with their shields against rioters. 

Outside of riots, police shields may also be used when engaging in dangerous scenarios in general. For instance, in the knife-wielding incident outside St. Hilda’s Secondary School, a shield was used as a precautionary measure.

Use of lethal force 

If the situation escalates and there is an imminent threat of grievous hurt or death, officers might have to take decisive action and deploy their firearms to stop the threat. For instance, the suspect may be charging at a police officer with a weapon, thereby posing an immediate threat of hurt or death. The following examples illustrate situations where the police have used lethal force.

Case study 1: Knife-wielding man shot at Bendemeer Road

On 23 March 2022, a man armed with a knife was shot in the chest by the police and died. This was after he refused to drop his weapon despite multiple warnings and being tasered three times. There was an imminent threat to the safety of the officers when the man continued to advance towards them after being tasered.

Two key points should be noted:

  • Effectiveness of tasers: A taser is not always fail-safe. Its effectiveness varies from person to person and depends on where the taser probes land on the subject. If the officer or subject is moving, the probes may miss or get dislodged. Therefore, factors such as the degree of movement and the attire of the subject will affect a successful deployment. 

The man who was shot dead was also known to be a drug offender. While inconclusive, experts have reported tasers to be less effective against individuals on drugs who are high on adrenaline. 

  • Location of shot: Generally, police officers are trained to fire at the centre of the body to stop an imminent threat of grievous hurt or death. This increases the probability of hitting the body of the suspect and reduces the risk of injuring innocent bystanders. 

Case study 2: Driver shot dead by police near Shangri-La Hotel 

On 31 May 2015, a driver was stopped for a vehicle check outside the Shangri-La Hotel where a major security summit was being held. When asked to inspect the boot, the driver accelerated and crashed through police barricades despite multiple warnings to stop. This posed an immediate threat to the officers and the police opened fire at the driver to stop the vehicle.

Apart from how the car could have reached the protected area in seconds, there was also the possibility of explosives in the car. Lethal force was thus applied to stop the imminent threat to public safety. 

Are There Any Guidelines That the Police Need to Note Before Using Force? 

The police are subject to several laws and guidelines when using force.

No unnecessary restraint

Although a police officer may use all reasonable means to arrest an evading or resistant person, section 76 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) provides that the person arrested must not be restrained more than necessary to prevent their escape. 

Use of lethal force to prevent a terrorist act

Section 63 of the CPC empowers a police officer to act in any manner (including using force to cause grievous hurt or death) if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that:

  • The person is about to perform a terrorist act; and
  • Such an act by the officer is necessary to apprehend the person. 

Police protocols and training

Police officers also have to follow strict protocols before employing force. For instance, verbal warnings are first issued and the police may have to consider varying degrees of force to apply, with lethal force usually being the last resort. Officers also have to undergo annual tests and training to remain competent in the use of firearms and tasers. 

Of course, these examples and guidelines are not exhaustive. Police officers are trained to handle and follow different rules in different situations.

Are Members of the Public Permitted to Carry Tasers, Stun Guns etc.? 

The carrying of weapons like stun guns and tasers is prohibited in Singapore. These items are strictly controlled by the police and a licence is required for import, export or possession.

For more information, you can refer to this article on laws on prohibited, replica and self-defence weapons in Singapore

What Can I Do If I’m in a Situation Where a Person is Carrying a Weapon in Public? 

If you spot someone carrying a weapon in public, the first step is to move quickly and quietly away from the person, and locate a safe place to hide. You should then call the police at ‘999’ and provide details about the person and the location. 

Make sure to remain in a safe place away from the subject. You should not try to take matters into your own hands or intervene, especially when the subject is armed and/or dangerous.

Cases of violence involving dangerous weapons have shown us that our safety cannot be taken for granted. The police may have to use varying levels of force (non-lethal or lethal) to respond to the threat. Unlike non-lethal force (eg. batons and tasers), lethal force is generally used as a last resort to respond to imminent threats of serious harm. Police officers have to consider the proportionality of force to be applied to the threat, as well as the safety of all parties in the area.

Should you encounter a dangerous situation where someone is armed, violent or dangerous, please remember to stay safe and contact the police.

If you are charged with a weapons-related offence, you should engage a criminal lawyer for legal advice and representation in court if necessary.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
  2. What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
  3. How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
  4. What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
  5. What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
  6. Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
  7. Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?
  8. Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do
  9. Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
  10. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  11. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  12. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  13. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  14. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  15. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  16. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  17. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  18. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  19. Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
  20. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  21. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  22. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
Bail
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
Prosecution
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Composition Offers and Fines for Criminal Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
  2. When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
  3. Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
  4. Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
  5. What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
  6. Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
  7. Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
  8. The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
  9. How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
  10. TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
  11. Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
  12. When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
  13. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  14. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  15. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  16. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  17. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  18. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
  2. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  3. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  4. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  5. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  6. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  7. Criminal Records in Singapore
  8. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  9. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
  2. How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  3. Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
  4. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  5. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  6. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  7. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  8. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  9. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  10. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  11. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
  2. Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
  3. Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
  4. Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
  5. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  6. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
  2. Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
  3. Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
  4. Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
  5. How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
  6. Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
  7. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  8. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  9. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  10. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  11. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  12. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  13. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  14. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  15. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
  2. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  3. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  4. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  5. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  6. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  7. Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
  8. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  9. Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
  10. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Property Offences
  1. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  2. Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  4. Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
  5. Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
  6. Penalties for Littering and Killer Litter Offences in Singapore
Cybercrime
  1. What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
  2. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  3. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  4. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  5. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
  2. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  3. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  4. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  6. Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Taxidermy of Animals in Singapore: Is It Legal?
  2. Legal and Illegal Pets in Singapore (HDB/Private Property)
  3. Is It Illegal to Feed Stray Animals in Singapore?
  4. Singapore Animal Abuse Offences, Penalties & How to Report
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
  2. Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
  4. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
  5. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  6. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  7. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  8. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Gang and Riot-related Offences
  1. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  2. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  3. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
Marriage-Related Offences
  1. Bigamy: Is It Legal to Marry a Married Person in Singapore?
  2. Marriage Offences in Singapore Involving Minors, Same-Sex, Etc.
  3. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
  2. Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
  3. Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
  4. Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
  5. Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
  6. Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
  7. Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
  8. Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
  9. What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
  10. What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  11. Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
  12. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  13. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore