The day you decide to take this job up, will be the day you work round the clock. Your responsibility to protect life and property, to prevent and detect crime doesn’t end when your shift ends.
It becomes your moral compass even when you are not in your blue uniform. The experience shared below is that of a junior ranking police officer with the Singapore Police Force.
The honeymoon period for a police officer
You spend your first 6 months in TRACOM (Training Command) at Home Team Academy honing your police knowledge and skills, preparing you for the responsibilities ahead. You will learn, be trained in and tested on Singapore statutes, weapons handling and firing them, police defense tactics, fitness, foot drills, driving and most importantly, attending and managing cases on the ground.
Once you have sufficiently completed your training and having been evaluated by a group of assessors, you will go on attachment at one of the Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) and finally get your first taste of what it’s like to sit in a police vehicle attending to messages (cases).
Don’t worry too much about your evaluation because aside from your theoretical examinations of the Singapore statutes, the other evaluations are done as a group or in pairs with your fellow squadmates. So, as long as you and your squadmates have great camaraderie, you will be helping one another out to pass all the evaluation.
Entry requirements to join the Singapore Police Force
Minimum 5 GCE ‘O’ Level passes or NITEC
PES A or B for males. Females are exempted
Normal colour vision
This is essentially, your honeymoon period.
Passing out from TRACOM
Passing out as a Sergeant (if you are an A Level or Diploma holder) or Corporal (if you only have 5 GCE ‘O’ Level passes or NITEC), you will be posted to a NPC within your land division or one that is not too far away from home (there’s a total of 5 land divisions: Alpha, Echo, Delta, Juliet and Foxtrot, each covering different locations).
Your patrolling hours are from 8am to 8pm or 8pm to 8am but you will always need to report in at least an hour earlier before your shift begins to draw your weapon and personal equipment from the armoury, check your patrolling inventory and check the road worthiness of your vehicle as well as to fall-in for your uniform inspection, take the Police Pledge and attend a team briefing.
In the first 3 months posted to a NPC, you will be attached to a team and partnered with a senior. This period is often referred to as your Supervised On the Job Training or better known as SOJT. Your patrolling partner during this period is also your mentor and he/she will guide you through all the processes involved in attending to cases, share with you the relevant details of the job and introduce you to the type of team dynamics that you are entering into.
This is the period where you will have a mindset change and realise that some things you learnt in TRACOM cannot be applied here because life on the ground requires you to think quickly on your feet to adapt to rapidly changing environments and most importantly, apply discretion.
Attending cases in the streets of Singapore
Contrary to popular belief that police officers often eat donuts and drink coffee from cups and look cool posing beside their vehicle, you would probably buy char kuay with a packet of coffee. Coffee is usually hung in the police vehicle (usually at the wiper or signal switch) and at times, it gets thrown out because you end up with a cold packet of coffee due to attending long cases. Some vehicles have the honour of having the interior beautifully decorated with coffee stains and being a home to cockroaches (Roaches or not, you have to get in the car and drive it).
The public don’t see much of the police on the roads because attending to cases, especially cases of dispute, could take hours to be resolved/closed. In protecting life and property, preventing and detecting crime, officers also step in as first line mediators in disputes. Mediating disputes is a tricky case because it has the potential to escalate into violence. Where disputes are not resolved immediately, you need to encourage parties to attend mediation. Attending to a case of dispute could take between 1-3 hours long, depending on the severity and number of people involved.
Examples of disputes could include flower pots inconveniencing a neighbour, alleged noise made by neighbour even though neighbour is not home or a teen calling the police because his father is being too harsh at home.
Police officers also get called to attend cases where people attempt to commit suicide or has committed suicide. In such cases, you may end up spending the entire shift at the location. If it’s the former, you arrest the person and bring them to the lock up. At the lock up, you’ll end up spending a good 15-30 minutes to handover the accused/subject to the lockup officer followed by lodging of an arrest report. If it’s the latter, depending on the type of case you are attending to, you may need to get your hands dirty.
A hanging decomposing dead body requires you to bring the body down and search the body for particulars or valuables. Often, the decomposing body at this juncture will release its’ last breath and maggots will begin crawling out. When attending to such cases of unnatural death, your job is to cordon the area to prevent contamination of evidence and as far as possible, protect the identity of the deceased, as a show of respect to the deceased and the family.
Duties and shift hours at NPCs
Besides patrolling duties, you will also rotate with your other team members to do counter duties. Yes, you don’t patrol all the time. Your Team Leader (TL) or Deputy Team Leader (DTL) will do up a roster at the end of every shift to allow team members to rotate duties. When assigned to counter duties, you are desk bound at the NPC or Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP). Though it could be a lonely and boring job, it does have its own challenges. Being rostered for duty at the NPP means you will be left all alone. It’s like you’re manning your own clinic since you will be attending to complainants (people who walk in to report cases).
Your shifts are 12 hours long and you work one morning shift and one night shift followed by your first off also called your sleeping off and then your second off. On average, you work a total of 16 days per month and work about 16-18 hours per shift, which amounts to about 256-288 hours per month.
Attending to complainants and assisting them in lodging their reports could take from a few minutes to hours, depending on severity of what is being lodged. Then, there is also the random member of public who will stroll in because they have something to say and there is still the phone calls to attend to. It’s a juggling act the moment you perform counter duties.
No one enjoys it that much, and it’s especially unenjoyable if you are rostered for duty at the NPC that’s right under the bosses nose: Team Leader (TL), Operations Officer (OO) and Commanding Officer (OO). If your NPC is at the divisional headquarters, it’s the worst because you have all the other senior officers offices just above yours and although they are not going to be paying you a visit so often, you will be always on your toes about what you do.
Off duty from work
Being off duty does not mean you are done for the day as you still need to put up reports for the cases you have attended. This often takes between 2-3 hours. Effectively, you only get to go home around 9 or 10am/pm.
Depending on the luck of your posting, there may be times when even after you knock off from morning shift, you may be required to report back at 12 midnight to conduct operations. One example would be staking out at specific locations to ambush and arrest serial cases such as housebreaking and theft. Often, such operations lasts till about 4 or 5am. Then you go home, sleep for a few hours and report back for night shift. So, your total working hours could be about 22 hours on exceptional days.
On certain occasions, where there are big events happening in Singapore, you will be recalled back for duty during your off days and be deployed as security personnel. Events such as F1, National Day, Chingay, Thaipusam, Qing Ming, etc. Consider the fact that Singapore is a country that has many events, you need to be prepared to come back on many of your off days. Thankfully, you can claim back these extra hours.
Once a month, your second off day is taken up to attend training sessions at your divisional headquarters called ‘In-Service’.
Oh, in case you are planning to take leave, it’s better to put it as ‘Overseas Leave’ or you might get called back to work because some of your team members were on Medical Leave. Yes, on leave and you get called back.
Besides attending to off-duty duties, you are also required to attend Residents Committee (RC) meetings to update RC members on the crime that’s happening in their neighbourhood, follow Grassroots Advisers (usually a Member of Parliament) on their house visits to answer questions related to crime that a resident may have, be involved in organising Community Safety and Security Programme (CSSP) projects, get roped in to participate in inter-NPC, intra-NPC, inter-Division and/or inter-Agency activities.
Of course, while it’s entirely your choice whether or not you decide to participate in the activities, participating in the activities could help to bolster your appraisal and ranking which will mean a lot to you because it covers your Performance Bonus (PB).
Team bonding among fellow police officers
Different teams have different ways of doing this. Some enjoy going overseas together, some prefer spending time out on a picnic but most of all, drinking and clubbing is an activity that most police officers actually enjoy. Of course, if there is a club in your division, you are not allowed to patronise that club.
So, during the period just before your pay day, someone in the team will usually plan and suggest going clubbing either after your morning shift or on your first off day. It’s a great way to let loose and it’s also a good way for you to end up broke before the end of the month.
For some teams, they may choose to get involved in a sport or activity that everyone can agree to participate in on every other off day. Such team bonding activities, though highly time consuming considering the amount of hours you already spend together, will help you to forge better understanding of one another and build great camaraderie.
The camaraderie built is extremely important because you want to be able to communicate with your team members without the need to speak when you are patrolling on the ground attending to sensitive cases or when you are involved in sting operations.
Team members are more willing to help one another when there is greater trust and understanding.
Promotion among the ranks of in the police force
Promotions are highly dependent on a few factors:
Your yearly appraisal measured over 2-3 years.
Your TL and DTL.
Your Individual Proficiency Physical Test (IPPT).
If you were good the first year, average the second year and good the third year, that’s not too good for promotion because you had a dip in performance in your second year.
However, being average over three years is good for promotion. Besides that, your TL and DTL have to ‘fight’ for your promotion, to justify why you deserve that promotion. This is where those additional activities you participated in will assist you!
In the past years, changes were made in the force such that to be promoted, you also needed to pass the IPPT. It’s actually a good move because as police officers, you are required to maintain your physical fitness but with so much on your plate, not many are pleased as they hardly have time to squeeze in to maintain their fitness.
Lastly, headcounts make the final determinant on your promotion. In every team, there needs to be a good mix of ranks. If there are several higher ranking junior officers, then the lower ranking junior officers will not be able to get promoted unless the other teams are lacking in higher ranking junior officers. When such a situation happens, then there will be restructuring within the NPC to ensure there is a good mix of ranks between teams.
Most officers feel discriminated by such promotion strategies and they have every right to but unfortunately, the system is as such or there might be too many high ranking junior officers.
The structure of ranks and positions in a team usually comprises of:
TL (1st man): Inspector or Senior Station Inspector (SSI) or Station Inspector (SI)
DTL (2nd man): SSI or SI or Senior Staff Sergeant (SSS)
3rd man: SSS or Staff Sergeant (SS)
Group Leader (GL): SS or Sergeant (Sgt)
Group Member: Sgt or Corporal
Officers who do not wish to patrol any longer or by the order of the Commanding Officer (CO) or Operations Officer (OO) could either request to be transferred to:
Departments within the NPC to perform administrative duties
Departments at their divisional headquarters which may include becoming an Investigation Officer
Departments/divisions within the Singapore Police Force (eg: Criminal Investigation Branch, Commercial Affairs Division, TRACOM, etc)
The experience shared above may differ from one officer to another, depending on which division they are attached to but the job remains the same — to protect life and property, prevent and detect crime.
When you make good arrests, you will be commended for it and even receive an award for it but if you make a mistake, there is every chance that you may be charged.
Remember, the risks that comes with this job is real and is not meant for the faint hearted but this job is always in need of people who are committed and dedicated to serve and protect.