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More Than Just Enforcement: Understanding What Policing is About
One officer shares his key takeaways after completing a three-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Programme in Criminology and Security.

To many of us, criminals are simply transgressors of the law. But to Staff Sergeant (SSGT) James Ting of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), these individuals may also be facing underlying socio-economic problems and therefore in need of assistance. 

“When you walk the ground, you meet a wide spectrum of people. It’s really about seeing them as human beings first,” he said. “You try to appreciate the whole person and relate to them, in addition to following the standard operating procedures."

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SSGT James Ting. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

The 27-year-old is a fresh graduate from the three-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Programme in Criminology and Security (offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology in collaboration with the University of Liverpool), which gave him the opportunity to explore complex social issues related to crime and security.

His hard work paid off when he emerged as the valedictorian of his cohort and was awarded “Best Dissertation” for his final essay. 

“It was no doubt a challenging journey. The transition back to school after years of being away took some getting use to,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be the valedictorian; I just did my best to learn as much as I could. Sometimes, this means being able to unlearn what you know in order to learn new things.”

Getting to the Heart of Social Issues
As SSGT James realised, there’s more to Policing than meets the eye. Given the breadth of the criminal justice system, there are many aspects to crime and security that have to be considered to get a fuller picture.

Police officers handle a multitude of cases and meet all kinds of individuals; and even as they are responsible for enforcing the law, they also exercise sensitivity and empathy when protecting the vulnerable. 

Doing this requires awareness of underlying social issues. Having served as a Police officer for four years before studying for his degree, SSGT James could better relate the concepts learnt in the classroom to the realities that he’d experienced on the ground as an officer at Woodlands West Neighbourhood Police Centre.

“For example, when we respond to a dispute between two parties, our protocol is to de-escalate the matter and keep the peace,” SSGT James explained. “But perhaps those involved could also be referred to welfare organisations or Social Service Offices for mediation. These avenues can improve a situation so that it’s less likely for such disputes to surface again.”

Helping others is exactly why SSGT James finds fulfilment in his job. “When we approach Policing this way, it has the potential to be even more transformative,” he said. 

Technology as a Means, Not an End

Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using Data Science to enhance their crime-fighting capabilities, and the use of analytics looks set to offer Policing greater scope and precision.

As this trend picks up pace, what are its implications and possible effects? That’s what SSGT James decided to focus on for his dissertation during his final year of study. According to him, key considerations include making sure that the data used is comprehensive and unbiased, and that analytical algorithms are well-designed, to ensure accuracy.

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According to SSGT James, understanding the techniques and tools at our disposal allows us to better enhance our security. GRAPHIC: Home Team News

“Predictive technologies often look at factors such as facial expressions, gait and body language,” he said. “If we’re not critical of the techniques and tools we use, the technology may ‘control’ the outcomes instead.”

SSGT James also credits the Criminology and Security Programme for giving him the platform to tussle with complex ideas, especially at the macro level – from how policies affect people to understanding how global events can affect domestic security needs.

“The Programme taught us to think in a holistic manner,” he said. “We evaluated policies, suggested ways to improve them, and sought ways to minimise potential negative effects. It helped us to appreciate both macro and micro details related to our work. This will prove very useful as we take on new roles in our careers.”

Returning to the Force
The learning has not stopped for SSGT James. Having graduated from the Criminology and Security Programme, he’s currently going through a six-month training programme at the Home Team Academy that includes lessons in criminal law and criminal investigation. After which, he’ll take up greater responsibilities within the SPF. 

“Taking the Programme was a refreshing change for me,” he said. “One has to keep moving forward in order to acquire new knowledge and experiences, and to grow as a person.”


About the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Programme in Criminology and Security 
Youth crime, cyber-crime, prison design, court processes, policy studies and radicalisation – these are just some of the subjects covered by the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Programme in Criminology and Security. Launched in 2013 by the Singapore Institute of Technology in collaboration with the University of Liverpool, the intensive, three-year Programme introduces students to a range of perspectives on crime and its impact on society. This year’s graduating ceremony for the Programme was held on 29 September 2018, and saw 34 Home Team officers receiving their degrees with pride. Congratulations, Class of 2018!

  1. by Muhamad Khair
  2. 23 November 2018
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