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Helping Seasoned Investigators Sharpen Their Edge
Participants of the inaugural Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice Course share how legal knowledge can bolster their investigative work.

As Head of Investigation at the Singapore Police Force’s Central Division, Superintendent (Supt) Aileen Yap, 40, is always on the lookout for ways to sharpen her skills. A seasoned investigator, she knows that a criminal case is only successful if it is taken to Court and those convicted receive due punishment under the law.

For this to happen, Investigation Officers (IOs) must not only have the usual investigative skills – dogged persistence, a nose for clues and a commitment to seeing justice done – they must also understand the legal system itself.

That’s why Supt Yap was glad to join the pioneering batch of participants that attended the Criminal Justice Course, a joint effort between the Home Team Academy, the Home Team School of Criminal Investigation and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law,  supported by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

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(From left) Criminal Justice Course participants Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Zulkarnain Sameian, ASP S Vikneshwaran, Supt Aileen Yap and ASP Koay Lean Seong. PHOTO: Jaiesh Sachi

The Course commenced in January 2018, with the aim of enhancing the legal application and knowledge of IOs. And it’s been an enlightening journey for these experienced investigators. “Right from the first lesson, we learned about performing basic legal research and how laws are made,” said Supt Yap. “We’ve come to know more about Singapore’s legal system and how it ties into our work as investigators.” 

Building a Foundation in Law

Spanning eight months, the Course comprises weekly sessions at NUS’ Bukit Timah Campus. During each three-hour session, participants discuss real criminal incidents and learn how legal reasoning can be applied as a foundation for their cases.

“As IOs, we have strong practical investigative abilities, but may not have prior exposure to legal training,” said Assistant Superintendent (ASP) S Vikneshwaran, 43, Chief IO of General Crimes at Central Division. “Through this course, we learn the background behind the enactment of laws and get a better perspective of the entire criminal justice system.”

The weekly sessions ensure that Course participants can learn and reflect on the lessons while continuing with their usual duties. “It’s a good challenge because we have the chance to broaden our understanding of the law, and to apply it to our work,” explained ASP Zulkarnain Sameian, 45, Chief IO of Development & Services at Central Division.


Dynamic Sessions

Enthusiastic learners benefit from enthusiastic teachers, and NUS Law lecturer Mr Benny Tan, 31, is in many ways the perfect man for the job. A former Deputy Public Prosecutor, Mr Tan also has experience in criminal defence work and evidence law. This has helped him in his duties as Head Coordinator for the Course.

“When my colleagues and I designed this Course, we focused on adding value to the IOs’ knowledge,” said Mr Tan. “We wanted them to become more familiar with the law and to learn legal principles and skills that can be used for any offence, regardless of the area of enforcement they are dealing with.”

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Mr Benny Tan drew on his prior work as a Deputy Public Prosecutor to help design the Criminal Justice Course. PHOTO: Jaiesh Sachi  

During his lessons, Mr Tan references real criminal cases to facilitate discussions, and gives assignments based on issues that the IOs tackle daily. This often makes for dynamic exchanges in the classroom. “Our IOs offer insightful responses by drawing on their significant, real-life experiences, and sometimes even offer alternative interpretations of a subject,” he said. “This is fantastic because the learning is two-way.”

This spirit of engagement has also fired up the IOs. “Learning is a natural process; we learn on the ground, in the classroom, and whenever the opportunity arises,” said ASP Koay Lean Seong, 40, an IO from Central Division. “I hope that more IOs can enrol in the Criminal Justice Course and come away with new knowledge.”

As for the future, Mr Tan hopes that participants will continue to sharpen their legal skills after completing the Course. “Our IOs are proof that learning doesn’t stop just because you finish your degree,” he said. “We all have to continually upgrade our skills, and I look forward to the day when IOs from across the Home Team take this Course and gain a greater understanding of the law.”


  1. by Jaiesh Sachi
  2. 05 April 2018
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