Published: 18 August 2022
Members of the PSC,
Scholarship recipients, Principals, and families,
Home Team colleagues,
1. Good evening to all of you.
2. Congratulations to all the recipients of our scholarships and welcome to the Home Team (HT).
3. You are HT scholars. But what does Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the HT, do? What will you be doing? And what does it mean to you?
4. We, in essence, ensure the safety and security of Singaporeans, and security within Singapore.
5. It is a serious responsibility, and it is not easy.
6. Without security, you will have nothing else. Everything you see around you – foundation is security, law and order.
7. None of this is a coincidence. 28,000 officers, NSFs, NSmen in the HT make sure that Singapore is different. And we work in close partnership with the community.
8. Our approach is a combination of (a) prevention efforts, (b) cutting edge technology, and (c) effective actions on the ground – by the different agencies.
9. Let me give you a snapshot, of what you can expect with reference to how the HT uses or incorporates technology in its work.
Key Developments in HTDs
Policing - Cameras, DNA
10. On the ground, by 2030, Police will have a huge network of sensors. 200,000 cameras – they are part of sensors, and these cameras have already helped to solve thousands of cases. Video analytics in cameras help to detect crowd formation and dispersal, violent behaviour, and in fact, can help to predict what can happen.
11. The consequence of this is that many crimes are solved within a matter of hours from the time they are committed, by going through the cameras, coordination with the ops centre where the operators are very skilled in assessing, with forensics to solve.
12. Let me give you an example of a recent case from earlier this month. Two young teenagers, 14 and 16 years old, were assaulted by four strangers – four men. Their cash was taken, phones were taken, and the men ran away. The Police were notified at 9.20pm. They went through the cameras. Through a combination of hard work and video analytics, traced them through shopping malls, town centres, MRT stations, taxi stands, wherever they went. Multiple forms of transport, across more than four locations, around Singapore. That night itself, Police identified where they came from. And within 18 hours – by the next afternoon – all four men have been arrested. That is how fast the investigations take.
13. Forensics capabilities, like the use of DNA is also increasing. If you look at how they use forensics – a homicide case, five, six years ago, a 31-year-old engineer, lady, went missing. The Police checked with her boyfriend; he said he did not know anything. They went through cameras, and it showed them meeting and boarding the same car. They examined the vehicle, there were some of traces of blood and hair. The DNA samples were linked to the victim. Eventually, with cameras and DNA, the man confessed that he had killed the victim. In the pre-DNA and pre-camera era, it would have been difficult to build a case against the man. And if he does not confess, he would have gotten away scot-free. Now, in much of the work that you do, science is the main factor.
Home Team Operations Centre
14. At the heart of any operation by the HT, is the operations centre – the brains of the organisation.
15. So, if you look at the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC), it does sense-making, in real time; tracks incidents, coordinates with other agencies; and deals with the effective resolution of many incidents across the island.
16. The other HT Departments have their own Command Centres.
17. We will be integrating all these ops centres into a new Home Team Operations Centre, involving SPF, SCDF, CNB, ICA, to bring together data, resources, and capabilities of the HT in one place, and allow a common situational picture, and coordinate closely in managing both routine as well as major incidents. The reason for telling you these things, is that the whole way in which we are working is going to be even more data-centric, real-time, situational pictures, with everyone working together.
18. Across the HT, we are building different platforms and sensors which can interact with each other, to provide cohesive situational pictures, and allow us to respond. What do I mean? Look at the sea – unmanned vessels which can eventually talk to each other, patrol our territorial waters, can do firefighting, and help with intelligence work. Drones and robots on land, which can carry out many of the duties of patrolling, search & rescue. Robots which can do firefighting, and also carry equipment and stretchers. Sensors across the island. Multiply these platforms, all linked up, talking to each other, intelligent platforms, intelligent robots, to allow real time 24/7 sensemaking and response across land, sea and air, identifying security threats and intrusions, law and order issues, leak of hazardous materials, much more.
19. So, that’s the kind of organisation that you are joining, and which you will, when you graduate, help to make come true, because it’s happening, it is going to be happening over the next several years, and then it will be a continuous work in progress after that, because technology will keep changing. So, you will be joining an organisation that is putting technology at the front and centre, in addition to people, to really deliver for Singaporeans.
20. It is a big vision, and a key agency which is helping to make it happen, is HTX, working very hard with key agencies and tech companies.
21. I have so far spoken about technology, but I have also spoken about people who are even more front and centre. They are the heart of every organisation. And usually we will talk about our own officers, I will come to that, but let me talk about Prisons and how we approach this, to give you a sense of the DNA of the HT, how we view our duties, putting people at the centre of everything we do.
22. Prison officers are no longer called prison guards or prison officers, they are called Captains of Lives, and there is a reason why they are called Captains of Lives, because they are handling the lives of all inmates. What do we want to see? Every inmate who comes in, we want him or her to go out, and stay out, and make a meaningful life for himself or herself. In most prisons across the world, in most countries, the people who go into prison and come out are the people who go back into prison again. The recidivism rate is actually very high. It is less so for us, but it is still high.
23. We try our best to give them a meaningful life, a job, so that they stay out. How do we do it?
24. They get training, support, when they are inside. They get access to psychology-based rehab programmes, tailored to the needs of the inmates. Inmates with more needs, like drug offenders, those with intellectual disabilities, family violence and sexual offenders – they get additional targeted programmes, focused on specific factors like family support, psychological support. They are also given the appropriate work experience, educational qualifications, and receive family and religious support.
25. As soon as they are released, SPS links up closely with social service agencies, and MINDS, and IMH, for direct and seamless follow up. SPS also works very closely with Yellow Ribbon Singapore and community partners to look after social, family, jobs, other aspects. In 1999, we had less than 200 volunteers in the community working with us. Today, we have more than 3,800.
26. As a result of this approach, the two-year recidivism rate for the most recent cohort – released in 2019 – was 20%.
27. We are also going upstream, to try and prevent persons from offending in the first place. We are looking at how to break the intergenerational cycles of offending, again – to make a difference. You save a life from prison, you make a difference.
28. The reason I have talked about this is to tell you that lives matter, people matter, and we put that at the centre of everything we do. And you matter a lot to us. The intention, the hope, is to be able to mould you into outstanding citizens and outstanding HT officers, who can make significant contributions to Singapore and the HT. And you will be directly involved in both the policy thinking and the operationalisation of the many things I have spoken about, and many more that I have not spoken about.
29. To continue to be effective in our work, more than ever, we need a good framework, good leaders, good officers. That will help us do our work and also, the key component, which the HT has with Singaporeans, the high levels of trust that people have in the HT. When they look at a person in the HT uniform – whether it is SCDF or Prisons or Police – they trust.
30. There are two aspects to the trust. One, trust by the public towards the HT. The other – trust within the HT, among our own officers.
31. In Singapore, we see very high levels of trust between the HT, and public. Recent survey this year: 92% personally trust the HT. That’s more than nine out of 10.
32. Public perception survey by SPF last year showed that trust was at 96%. If you want to compare, UK - around 55% in 2020; US - 51% in 2021. And if you ask African Americans in the US, dips to 27%. In fact, they are asking to remove funding from the police there. That’s one aspect. So, we have a huge reservoir of trust, and that’s being built by doing good in our work. And in the few cases where our officers are in breach, we deal with them publicly, without any fear or favour, and people know that we will be tough on our own people and they will be accountable.
33. The second aspect is trust within the organisation: How much our officers trust each other, and the organisation.
34. In the recent Public Service Division survey across Government on employee engagement levels – how engaged employees are with their organisation. More than eight in 10 officers, more than 80% of officers in the Home Affairs Ministry, felt engaged to the public service, and to their unit. They didn’t wake up each morning wondering why they were doing this. They woke up each morning feeling committed to the organisation. Across all the categories that were surveyed – teamwork, recognition, quality of supervisors, career and professional development, and whether officers want to stay in the organisation – the HT scored very highly on almost all these factors, and significantly higher than the public service norm.
35. So, what is the outcome of all of this? Singapore, I started off with saying at the start of my speech, is safe and secure. 97% of adults feel safe walking alone at night. We are ranked first in Gallup’s Law and Order Index on safety and security, and we’ve been ranked first every year, at least since 2015.
36. This can only be achieved if we continue to have good leadership. It’s crucial and good leaders will be all the more important to make sure that we continue in the middle of all the uncertainties that you see around the world.
37. So, we need a very strong pipeline of HT leaders in the uniformed services, in the specialist functions and in the generalist functions, to continue to see us through all these emerging and future threats.
38. This year, we are very happy to welcome 26 new HT scholars to our family. You have been chosen from a very highly competitive field of applicants.
39. Two are recipients of The Singapore Police Force Scholarship. That is awarded by the Public Service Commission to Singaporeans with outstanding academic performance, who have demonstrated leadership qualities, and a strong desire to serve in the SPF.
40. So, congratulations to Raeka Ee and Nigel Ng. I think they deserve a round of applause.
41. Raeka will read Law at the Singapore Management University
42. Nigel will read Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
43. There were 11 scholarships for the uniformed services.
44. This is the first year we are awarding the Singapore Merit Scholarships to SCDF recipients. This is a major step.
45. These go to Lucas Huan, who will read PPE at the University of Warwick, and Mirza bin Abdul Latiff, who will read Mechanical Engineering. Congratulations.
46. 13 civilian scholarships were awarded this year. Nine of our 13 civilian scholars were awarded scholarships on the Science and Technology track. This speaks again to the importance of technology to the HT’s work.
47. We also have our first scholar on the Psychology track, Isabelle Chiang. She will read Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Oxford.
48. So, this diversity of talent across the uniformed and civilian services, and their different areas of study, are going to be very valuable to the HT.
49. As a HT leader, every day, internally, you will see the result of your actions and ideas – whether it is in ISD, ICA, CNB, HTX, Police, SCDF. What you do you will see it being operationalised, and you can actually touch and feel the result of what you do. And every single day, something might happen. In fact, a good day is when the HT is not in the news.
50. As HT leaders, you will be expected to lead with integrity, honour, and unity – which are our core values. This involves building esprit de corps in your teams, having a strong one-HT spirit, caring for our officers, developing them to their full potential.
51. We, at the HT, are committed to offering each one of you many pathways to success and maximising your potential.
52. So, you can look forward to formal training, including in leadership development; structured job rotations across the HT and even in the wider Public Service, to broaden your perspectives and enable you to take on higher appointments and responsibilities; and opportunities for attachments outside of the Public Sector, to the people and private sectors.
53. That way, you will be helped to develop the skillsets and know-how to contribute to continued good governance in this country, and at the same time have a meaningful and fulfilling career in the HT.
54. So, congratulations to all the awardees, parents, family members, school principals, and teachers, and we look forward to your contributions in the HT when you return from your studies.
55. Thank you very much.