Home Team Academy Workplan Seminar 2017 – Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 13 June 2017

Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary, Chief Executive of HTA, Home Team colleagues, Partners of the Home Team


Good afternoon.




2.     As Home Team evolves, obviously the training has got to evolve. First, the environment that Home Team is facing, I've talked about it a number of times. Second, the connection between training and operational effectiveness. And third, our own efforts to transform the Home Team training.


3.     And we have talked about the environment and the challenges that lie ahead, obviously, what is on top of everyone's mind is terrorism. Last month, close to home, there is Marawi. There were also attacks, three times in the UK, and all around the world, in Jakarta as well.




4.     Many attacks are being carried out by lone-wolves, and the attacks can take place anytime and anywhere. Anyone can be a target, even when you are walking down the road you may be a target, and the fact that it can take place very quickly, over a short period of time, with little or no warning, with the loss of many lives. This is the security environment we are faced with today. And our training has got to deal with that and prepare our officers for that.


5.     Second, these are not entirely exhaustive, look at the drug trends in Singapore.


6.     41% of the abusers arrested last year were below 30, there was a slight increase in the numbers from 2015. 65% of new abusers arrested were below 30. So 200 people were arrested for buying online. This creates a whole different paradigm. We have to look at this environment, protect ourselves from it, working closely with the community and international partners to deal with the issue of drugs.


7.     The third challenge, that is a result of our new environment, is the significant operating constraints and manpower constraints. I have talked about it several times. Public expectations which are increasing, and at the same time the challenges and the workload is increasing. And there is the ever evolving and emerging nature of threats. So, the Home Team has got to transform itself and change to meet with these challenges. And training is a key point of that transformation.

8.     If you look at the kind of challenges and the kind of nature and change of the operating environment, training has become an essential ingredient in both the transformation and the way we can meet with these challenges. Because effective training enables successful operations. Successful operations results in higher public confidence and strong support for the Home Team.


Case #1: Tuas View Fire (SCDF)


9.     Let me share three recent cases.  The first is SCDF, the Tuas View Fire. The headlines in the papers said it all - "Training was the key to tackling the Tuas blaze". Some officers were interviewed. It was a huge fire. It was 200m by 200m, more than 200 responders and 38 fire rescue vehicles were deployed by SCDF. 4 hours of intensive firefighting to extinguish the fire. It involved chemical waste and flammable materials and was all around a difficult situation. The first responders did a great job in the face of danger. I visited the SCDF 1st and 4th Div officers to thank them for their good work. I spoke with Captain Shawn Tan, the ROTA commander on duty, and she said "There was no time to think. Their reflexes kicked in". Sgt Syazrul, a full-time NSman, said they just had to trust their instincts and work on the training they were given. Quickly assess the nature of the fire, how to contain it, how to fight it, while keeping the team safe. So their training kicked in. The excellent training they received. And I think the people who trained them actually should take a lot of credit for this. Good training will affect the outcome.

Case #2: Sembawang Drive Hostage Incident (SPF)


10.     Secondly, if you look at the Sembawang hostage incident involving SPF in September last year. The Police engaged in a 17-hour stand-off at Sembawang Drive, where a two-year-old boy was held hostage.


11.     He was rescued unharmed. There was a lot of rubbish online about why did it take 17 hours. But we were dealing with a two-year-old boy who could be harmed at any point in time, so it required a lot of assessment, a lot of patience. 


12.     It involved the Police's Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU) from the Police, Special Tactics and Rescue (STAR) team, Special Operations Command (SOC), and SCDF's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART). CNU officers were well trained in crisis negotiation techniques and they kept the situation calm and the child safe, most importantly, by talking to the hostage holder.


13.     The ground commanders did extremely well, they assessed the situation, and they later saved him. It takes more guts to assess and decide that maybe it is better to hold back, and they searched for a good opportunity for a rescue operation. 


14.     The Specialist forces from Police and SCDF worked very well together, seamless, and then were successful in carrying out the entry and the rescue. Again, it does not come by itself, it is because of the training and the close collaboration between the Police and the SCDF.


Case #3: Detection of ISIS Supporters at Checkpoints


15.     If you look at the checkpoints, we have ISIS supporters at checkpoints who have been picked up. Borders are really our first line of defence.


16.     We have been picking up more and more of these cases, security situations. In January of this year, we had eight Indonesians at Woodlands Checkpoint with pictures of ISIS-related images, shoe-bombs and so on, in their phones. February of this year, at Woodlands Checkpoint again, officers intercepted four Indonesians intending to travel to Syria through Singapore. All were refused entry. Hundreds of thousands come through, how do our officers pick them up? They were trained well to read body language, apply the right interview techniques, look out for tell-tale indicators.  Because of their expertise, they were able to pick up these people.


17.     There are many other examples of the Home Team having done well, I just gave a few.  But it shows the link between training and operational excellence. And I personally have emphasised this. I spoke about it last year, generally in all line units training is the one that suffers most, because when you are short on manpower and time, who has got time for training? So I said, if you do not set aside that time and do not emphasise it from the top, eventually the organisation will not be in a good place for its challenges. I said, let us look and see how we can emphasise the importance of training. Also, there is going to be an inquiry on the training and some results for the officers, and see what are some of the credit officers can get for coming for the training.




18.     How can we continue to groom officers who are good and make the right judgment calls in a difficult operating environment?


19.     There are four areas of focus to build a robust training and learning ecosystem. First, enhancing the frontline training. Second, learning on the go. Third, joint and integrated operations, and fourth, investing in our people.


(a) Enhancing Frontline Training


20.     Talking about enhanced frontline training. The basic principle is we have to train people and we have to train people in the right environment. They must experience it. So that when they face with a real situation, they know, "this is familiar to me, I know what to do", their reflexes kick in, instinctive and decisive.


21.     So, one way to bring realism is to use simulators. Gives them an immersive and interactive environment, and it will be possible to expose officers to a range of scenarios, and it provides immediate feedback.


22.     So we are rolling out these simulators at the frontline as well as at the training institutes.  I just came from Bedok Division and saw the "Mobile Classroom", or MobiC.  It is a mobile simulator platform. The idea is that it goes around to the different Neighbourhood Police Centres. Before their duties start, officers spend about 40 minutes and can train a number of officers at the same time. It takes day-to-day real scenarios and puts it into a Virtual Reality (VR) format and officers are trained to react and they are assessed based on how they react. Domestic disputes, coffee shop incidents, terrorism incidents, and we try and make it as realistic as possible. It has the advantage of being realistic, bite-sized and the training is brought to the ground. And they do it there, it is much more likely that they will train, as opposed to rostering officers to go somewhere else. So we bring this to the ground. I have to say this, this part was done very well, the whole thing was conceptualised and now rolled out within a matter of six months, including the technology. And, it is pretty much a state-of-the-art technology.      


23.     The Home Team will also roll out the Home Team Simulation System, which is a virtual command post for commanders to face a range of situations and then test their decision-making skills in different scenarios. And, not just that, as they improve and pass. So the training for the ground level, as well as the commanders.


(b) Learning On-the-Go


24.     Second, it is learning on the go. There are challenges in giving phones to officers and asking them to learn on their own. A lot of people may find it difficult to set aside the time for it. They may not find it interactive enough, but they have to try. Last October, HTA rolled out the Home Team Learning Management System (HTLMS). It is really a one-stop portal to support individual, department and domain learning needs, and over 38,000 officers have been given this format and every Home Team officer now has a learning account, including myself but I have not logged in.


25.     We will be developing a mobile app to facilitate access to this system, which allows officers to access training materials on-the-go, using their personal devices – smart phones and tablets, and let the officers learn at their own pace.


26.     HTA and Home Team training schools are also growing their learning content in e-format, and develop bite-sized training packages that people will be able to access. It will allow us to quickly roll this out, and allow officers to learn quickly on the go. Small, bite-sized pieces. We have to find the way to encourage our officers to overcome the phobia that some may have in handling these stuff.


(c) A Strong Foundation for One Home Team


27.     Third, we have to strengthen joint operations and a "One Home Team" mindset. HTA plays a critical role in that because it can bring officers together and get them to work seamlessly in a joint operations type of thinking.  Last year, HTA rolled out the Home Team Induction Programme to bring officers and civilians together, across the Home Team.


28.     This year and I am particularly happy about this, the Home Team Academy has partnered the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) to produce two core Home Team modules – one, "Home Team Integration", and second, "Home Team Ethos, Values and Ethics". These will become foundation courses for every Home Team officer and we are operating as one Home Team. Quite importantly for us and our officers, these courses will be accredited by SUSS. So for the first time, the Home Team officers can get credits that count towards a degree as part of their regular learning. So you learn, it is essential to your work and at the same time, it gets you credits for university that count towards getting your degree.


(d) Developing our Trainers and Leaders


29.     Fourth, in terms of developing our trainers and leaders. Training is fundamentally about investing in our people. In particular, the Home Team trainers are a key part of our training ecosystem. That cannot work without the trainers. In the audience, we have Home Team trainers. Our ability to transform the entire ecosystem and direct this organisation to where we want it to go to depends on you, the trainers. We will actively support you in this by running a customised, specialised programme, jointly developed with NIE International to give the trainers competencies. We will recognise you for your contributions for your work through awards like the Home Team Trainer Excellence Awards, and of course professional development opportunities and enhanced training allowances. So I look forward to the Home Team going on this transformation journey with you and for your own professional journey in becoming better trainers.


30.     Finally, this must result in a strong core of Home Team leaders who can take Home Team through uncertain and complex landscape. Officers at all levels have to be equipped to lead. So Home Team, through the new Home Team Centre for Leadership, has been trying to build a systematic leadership development structure with high quality leadership programmes, from junior supervisors to the top leadership ranks. HTA encourages leaders to continuously learn, reflect, and give back.




31.     So what would all of this mean if we get it right for the Home Team? Our training transformation would result in officers with deep thinking skills, who are adaptable, and have the confidence to tackle future challenges. Our Home Team, when you put the parts together, the sum is greater than the parts; more professional Home Team trainers and progressive leaders.


Need for commitment


32.     The transformation is an ongoing journey. If we get it right, the results will come. Today, the Home Team leaders driving the training transformation efforts, and Home Team Departments are giving their full support. And our training community has been working hard on this with us. I am confident we can successfully reach the point we are aiming at and create a strong Home Team ecosystem.


33.     Thank you very much.