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Service before Self (Part 2)

Honouring our Home Team Guardians for their everyday acts of selflessness and pursuit of excellence.
The Minister’s Awards recognise Home Team officers for their professionalism, dedication and achievements in safeguarding Singapore. We caught up with three of this year’s award recipients to find out more about their passion for the Home Team’s mission.

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

Professionalism and rigour are essential attributes of officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). Within a week of detecting a novel drug-smuggling technique using drones, Assistant Superintendent Gerald Tong and his team had gathered the necessary information to help cripple a Malaysia-based drug syndicate. The team’s swift sharing of intelligence with their foreign counterparts won them the Minister for Home Affairs Operational Excellence Award.  

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Tell us about this case.
Drug syndicates have been utilising new technologies and methods to carry out their illicit activities, especially with the tightening of border restrictions due to COVID-19. In June 2020, after the Police had discovered unusual drone activities and recovered a bag of “Ice” attached to a drone, we quickly conducted probes into the two suspects who were suspected of operating the drone, to gather intelligence on the syndicate. This was the first time we’d encountered the use of drones to smuggle drugs into Singapore. 

We mounted an anti-drug operation the following day to arrest two other suspected drug offenders. Over the two-day operation, we managed to seize a total of about 389g of “Ice” (which can feed the addiction of about 220 abusers for a week), 8g of heroin, 195 “Ecstasy” tablets and two Erimin-5 tablets, all estimated to be worth at least $44,000. 

Through the gathering and sharing of critical intelligence with Malaysia’s Narcotics Crime Investigation Department, three accused persons were arrested in Johor Bahru on 23 June 2020. This dealt a serious blow to the drug syndicate, all within seven days of Police’s detection of the drones.

What are some of the challenges and risks your team faces?
Our challenge was to quickly surface actionable leads and build a case against the drug offenders, based on active intelligence. As some of the syndicate members were based in Malaysia, we also worked closely with our Malaysian counterparts, to ensure the operation’s success. 

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As for the risks involved, every case we attend to is different, and we need to be prepared for unexpected or dangerous scenarios. For example, during my previous stint as an Officer-in-Charge in CNB’s Enforcement Division, a suspected drug offender resisted arrest and attacked my officers. The offender turned violent upon seeing my officers, throwing punches at them and choking one officer when they tried to restrain him. The offender was only subdued after more officers arrived, and we managed to arrest him after applying the necessary force.

How do you feel about receiving the Operational Excellence Award?
The Award represents the Home Team’s appreciation of the tenacity and swiftness of the team, and the close working relationship between our Home Team agencies and our foreign counterparts, which contributed to the successful dismantling of a drug syndicate, even beyond the borders of Singapore. – INTERVIEWED BY LYNN NG

When a young inmate kept acting out and wasn’t able to focus on her rehabilitation, Chief Warder (CW) Joann Chen studied different forms of intervention to guide her, and also engaged her parents to improve their relationship. For her efforts, CW Joann, a Night Duty Team Leader of Cluster A4, Singapore Prison Service (SPS), received the Star Service Award. 

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You’ve been with SPS for 14 years. Please share with us a memorable case that you assisted with.
In my previous posting as the Drug Task Force officer managing the Drug Rehabilitation Centre at Institution A4, I was assigned to be the Personal Supervisor of a young, first-time inmate. She was reserved and often kept things to herself, but couldn’t control her emotions. She also wasn’t on good terms with her parents and would cry occasionally during their visits. Her parents felt helpless and wrote in frequently to ask about her.

I began to spend more time engaging this inmate to understand her tendencies for acting out. I also sought guidance from a Correctional Rehabilitation Specialist and researched various activities that could help her spend her time more pro-socially. 

Together, we discussed subjects like goal-setting and I helped her discover what values were important to her. I also got her a mini-journal so that she could pen her thoughts every day, and I’d go through this journal with her every week, to make sure she was on the right track.

I also spent time engaging the inmate’s parents to explain our rehabilitation regime and reassure them about her well-being. Over time, as the inmate put in effort to write to her parents more regularly, their concerns were allayed. 

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What are some of the challenges you face on the job?
Some of the inmates are generally emotional and may have trust issues. To support their rehabilitation, I make sure to find the time to engage them, build rapport and earn their trust, while also managing the necessary day-to-day operations and facilitating programme sessions. 

Even when our operational workload is high, I always set aside some time to check-in with the inmates. It’s important to listen to them and acknowledge their feelings, as the rehabilitation journey isn’t easy. 

What does receiving the Star Service Award mean to you?
I’m honoured to receive this award and grateful to my wonderful supervisors and colleagues who are always there to support and guide me. – INTERVIEWED BY LYNN NG

Having joined the Home Team in 2010, Mohd Faizal Bin Selamat has completed postings with the Singapore Police Force and CNB. His professional journey has now taken him to the Home Team Academy (HTA) where, as Assistant Director (Programme Planning & Development) of the Home Team Civilian Training School, he helps fellow civilian officers develop critical professional skills. 

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PHOTO: Home Team News

Tell us about the work of the Civilian Training School, and what your portfolio involves.
The Home Team Civilian Training School was established in 2020 and oversees the development needs of about 3,000 civilian Home Team officers. We aim to develop civilian officers who are future-ready and exemplify the One Home Team mindset. We run courses such as the Home Team Civilian Milestone Programme; curate and review curriculum; and continuously engage civilian officers to better understand their learning needs.

How has being in the professional development domain impacted you in terms of your own thoughts about learning? 
I discovered that developing ourselves, in our professional and personal capacities, is a journey. Learning neither starts nor stops with a class, or a course, or a qualification. It’s really about having a growth mindset – finding out what we need to better ourselves and working towards realising our potential.

I love that I get to be a part of – and contribute to – the learning journey of my fellow Home Team civilian officers. It’s heart-warming when they show appreciation for the courses we organise, or when they share how they’ve successfully applied what they learnt!

What’s your key takeaway as a civilian officer who’s done both strategic and operational work at various Home Team Departments? 
Taking up new opportunities and portfolios has helped me to better understand my strengths and interests. I now have a better sense of how I can contribute to my team, and the Home Team. This is something I bring to my work at HTA every day.

How do you feel about receiving the Home Team Achievement Award this year?
I’m honoured to be a part of the team that collaborated to establish the Home Team Civilian Training School. It’s a showcase for our One Home Team philosophy – that together, we can achieve great things! – INTERVIEWED BY MIKE TAN

Minister’s Awards Presentation Ceremony 2021
The Minister's Awards Presentation Ceremony was held on 28 October 2021. This year, 194 awards were presented to recognise outstanding officers, teams and agencies that had demonstrated efficiency and competency in major operations, cases and projects, or displayed high standards of innovation and service excellence in the course of their work.

The following categories of awards were presented at the ceremony: Minister for Home Affairs Home Team Achievement Award, Minister for Home Affairs Operational Excellence Awards, Star Service Awards and Home Team Innovation Awards. 

Read the opening speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, at the Minister's Awards Presentation Ceremony 2021

Read the congratulatory remarks by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development; and Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.

Written by

Lynn Ng and Mike Tan


29 October 2021

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