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Home Team Careers: Two Decades with the CNB

After spending almost 15 years as a ground officer, Specialist Trainer Inspector Hisham bin Sulaiman now uses his experience to guide younger officers.
As a Specialist Trainer with the Training Unit of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Inspector (Insp) Hisham bin Sulaiman has come a long way since he joined the organisation in 1998, when he was fresh out of National Service. Before serving as a Specialist Trainer, he was an enforcement officer for almost 15 years.

Insp Hisham. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

Almost 15 Years as a Ground Officer
From coordinating drug busts to conducting undercover investigations, the bulk of Insp Hisham’s career has been spent as a Narcotics Officer, a job he describes as exciting and, at times, an “emotional rollercoaster”.

“You can feel satisfied and rewarded, and emotional, all in one day. In some cases, you can’t even contain your emotions,” he admits. “At times, you’ll see children crying because their parents got arrested, or arrest a mother’s only son. It’s part of the job.”

But satisfaction for Insp Hisham comes from the assurance that doing his job well means that harmful drugs are not out there to destroy more lives and families. “When you manage to break a syndicate, it’s satisfying to know that the drugs won’t be on the street,” he says. “Because you can never tell – those drugs might have reached some students or kids on the street.”

According to Insp Hisham, Narcotics Officers have to be more than just enforcers of the law; sometimes they have to go beyond and become mediators who can handle emotional and dangerous situations on the job. As he speaks about this, his voice becomes softer, more measured, and he pauses occasionally to form his thoughts.

“You have to be able to wear different hats, sometimes becoming a counsellor to comfort an offender’s loved ones,” he says. “The saddest part is that those who’re truly affected are the drug abuser’s family members. When the offender goes to prison, they leave their wife and kids behind to fend for themselves.” 

Guiding the Next Generation of CNB Officers
Today, the Specialist Trainer uses his investigative and enforcement experience to guide young officers. According to him, a good CNB officer must be able to anticipate potential obstacles and have a heightened awareness of the surroundings.

“Officers have to expect the unexpected,” explains Insp Hisham. “We may have put in many days of planning into an operation, but on the ground, things can change at the last minute – some drug traffickers may switch to another location at the last minute, to avoid detection. That’s why good teamwork and communication are key in every operation.”

Another essential quality is versatility. “There will be times when we need to go undercover, blend in with the crowd and go unnoticed,” he shares. “But then there are also other times when we have to dress up or become the arresting officer – we need to be like chameleons.”

Insp Hisham notes that, driven by passion and a desire to serve, many younger officers thrive on the adrenaline of going on operations; looking at them reminds him of himself as a young officer. The years of experience have taught him many important, and sometimes difficult, lessons – such as not being overzealous while still maintaining a strong passion for the job, and prioritising self-care.

“I remind new officers that while conducting operations is important, their families are too,” he says. “We shouldn’t bring home the emotions we experience at work. When we go home, we need to switch hats to become a father, mother, son or daughter. This is very important.”

Growing Wiser and Looking Forward
Having served as a ground enforcement officer, Insp Hisham now contributes to the CNB in different ways – he jokes that after so many years in service, it’s difficult for him to go undercover. “As you grow older, you tend to reflect on other ways to contribute to the organisation; how to improve it,” he says. 

And that’s why he led a project to develop a mobile learning app that gives new CNB officers easier access to information such as enforcement techniques. This allows them to be more independent in their learning as they can read materials before their training sessions.

As a father of two, Insp Hisham educates his own children about drugs and monitors their Internet surfing habits to ensure that they’re well-informed about the danger posed by drugs. He also engages primary and secondary school students as part of the CNB’s Preventive Drug Education efforts.

Today, two decades down the road, the CNB continues to offer Insp Hisham new opportunities to learn, develop and serve – and that’s why he has stayed for so long, and continues to contribute to the organisation.

“No two days are the same in the CNB – there’s variety in our work, and every operation is different,” he says. “It’s very fulfilling for me to help Singapore remain drug-free.”

A Career in the Home Team
If you’re keen to learn more about careers with the Home Team, visit the MHA website.

Written by

Muhamad Khair


27 July 2018

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