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At the Heart of Investigations
For veteran investigator Florence Chua, the case always comes first. Our first female Deputy Commissioner (Investigation and Intelligence) and concurrent Director of the CID takes us through her first 100 days on the job.

On 1 June 2018, Florence Chua became the first female Deputy Commissioner (DC) (Investigation and Intelligence) and concurrent Director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). But like many of the female pioneers in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) before her, this fact was less remarkable than simply doing the work of keeping Singapore safe and secure. 

It’s been 100 days into DC Chua’s appointment and the veteran investigator and her team are already deep into a series of major cases. We caught up with her to learn why, after 29 years with the SPF, she still loves coming to work. 

DC Florence Chua SPF 01B
PHOTO: Home Team News

Tell us about your first 100 days. 
The time has come and gone very quickly. You’ve read in the newspapers about major cases that happened in recent months – the slashing case along Serangoon Road, the attempted armed robbery at Boon Lay and the SingHealth hacking, which our officers are investigating. During this period, we also carried out a number of major operations such as arresting 31 people in July for being involved in illegal remote gambling during the World Cup period.

My challenge has been trying to find the time to do all that we have to. Fortunately, we have a very good team of officers. 

What’s a typical day like for you?
There’s always something new that requires our attention. On a typical day, I come to work and look through the cases we’re working on. Besides CID cases, we review cases that are being handled by the various SPF Land Divisions as well as specialist units, to provide guidance and direction to our fellow investigators. As the premier Investigation unit, we also take the lead in major multi-agency investigations.

Other work that occupies my time includes overseeing our Investigation transformation plans as well as reviewing policies and legislation. 

Why did you first decide to join the SPF in 1989? 
I was looking for something that wasn’t desk-bound, would challenge me on a daily basis and let me make a difference. At the end of the day, this is a job that’s meaningful. I look forward to coming to work, and feel honoured to be the Director of CID. 

DC Florence Chua SPF 02B
PHOTO: Home Team News

As a veteran investigator who has helped solve numerous cases, share with us the investigative process.
During an investigation process, different elements will often come together to help us solve a case. These elements may include Investigation Officers who follow leads and conduct interviews on the ground, officers who collect and analyse forensic evidence, and officers who conduct sense-making and provide intelligence leads.

So, whenever we hit a roadblock in one area, something else will come along to help us. We may have dropped one lead, but another may come through. That’s how cases get solved, when all the different elements come together. 

It can be challenging, like trying to solve a mystery, or outwit a criminal or syndicate – what strategies can we use to do this? 

It was the same when I started out as an officer – how can I get into a locked room quickly to stop the criminals from destroying evidence? 

That’s when we really have to be innovative. I remember when I was in Anti-Vice as a young officer. We’d put a ladder in our Black Maria police bus and then hide ourselves inside it because people were watching us outside the station. If they saw us leave, they’d know we were on an operation or raid, and would tip off the suspects. 

So we hid in the Black Maria and moved out without anyone noticing. Once we got to the location of the raid, which was usually a shophouse, we took out the ladder, put it against the wall and climbed up three stories to get inside. That was just one of the challenges that we had to figure out.

Which cases have made an impression on you?
There have been many over the years. I remember a case in 2001 when a businessman was kidnapped the day before his wedding. We solved it within 24 hours and managed to get him to his wedding on time. Another was the Sheng Siong kidnapping case in 2014. 

I also recall our work after the tsunami of 26 December 2004. I ran our contact tracing operations in Singapore, and that was very challenging because more than 1,000 Singaporeans had been reported missing by their families, in places where they’d gone holidaying. 

To track these people, we sent a team of officers to conduct identifications in Phuket, Thailand. We also assisted the families of those who had lost their loved ones. 

Two months after we concluded our operations, we learnt that one missing person, a father, had been identified. So I went to see his wife and their two young children, to break the news to them. It was a very sad moment for the family, but we were able to help them find closure. 

You were also a national hockey player in your early years as an officer. Tell us about that.  
I started playing hockey when I was 16 and was on the national team from 1980 to 1999. I played in five Southeast Asian Games, winning gold in 1993, and three Asian Games. 

Playing at the highest levels taught me about being disciplined and working hard to earn a place on the team. It also taught me resilience because, even as I was training and playing competitively, I was also conducting investigations and putting in 24-hour days. And playing a team sport helps when it comes to knowing how to rally everyone towards the same goal. 

DC Florence Chua SPF 03D
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

Did being a female officer make a difference to your career? 
People keep asking me this, but I haven’t felt it. I don’t think there were a lot of obstacles to me doing my work as an officer. It’s about whether you can do the job or not. 

We expect the same resilience of all our officers, male or female. If there’s a ladder in front of me, I’m expected to climb it. We’ve all had to squeeze through a hole in the wall to get into a room, or climb onto a roof. If our male officers do it, our female officers also have to. 

In terms of the roles played by our female officers, things have changed over the years. When I joined the SPF in 1989, there weren’t many female officers doing investigative work. But now, we have female officers in almost every role, even leading our Emergency Response Teams when responding to a terrorist incident. 

I’m the first female DC and Director of the CID, but I’m not first female SPF pioneer in a lot of areas. For example, I’m not the first female Commander, but the fourth. The first was Assistant Commissioner (AC) Ng Guat Ting, who was not only Commander of Clementi Police Division, she also served as the Commander of the Traffic Police. 

Then we had Senior Assistant Commissioner (SAC) Zuraidah Binte Abdullah, who was the Commander of Jurong Police Division and also the Commander of Training Command. Finally, AC Jessica Kwok was the Commander of Ang Mo Kio Police Division. 

Many of these officers have also been my mentors. Other important mentors who gave me guidance include Mr Ang Hak Seng, Mr Raja Kumar, Mr Ng Seng Liang (former Director of the CID) and Commissioner Hoong Wee Teck. So I’ve had an interesting and good journey, and my postings have allowed me to build on my strengths, and to grow. 

Tell us about the transformation initiatives in crime-fighting that you’re working on. 
We’re constantly looking at how we can improve our processes and leverage technology so that our investigators can work more effectively and efficiently. One system that we’re trying now is called TRIAGE. This is an intuitive, one-stop portal that enables supervisors and investigators to access and mark reports, perform screenings and record decisions all on a single page, as well as highlight priority incidents. Using technology also allows us to do data-mining, so that we can review crime trends and connect cases together. 

What keeps you going? 
The first thing that keeps me going is the challenge – every day, there’s something new for us to deal with. The other thing that keeps me going is the culture and people here. Our officers put in very long hours, without complaint. And they do this because they want to see justice being done; they want to bring closure to victims of crime and their families; they want to keep perpetrators off the streets. 

It’s really about wanting to make a difference. And I think that speaks volumes about our officers.

DC Florence Chua SPF 04
PHOTOS: Home Team News

  1. by Mike Tan
  2. 12 September 2018
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