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"The complete policeman"
Police Life Monthly - Dec 1997
     

The SPF has seen many changes in 1997 and one of the most significant must surely be the introduction of Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPCs). Soon to be implemented in 32 areas in Singapore, the NPC is truly a step in the right direction where service excellence is concerned. But just exactly what function does an NPC serve? And what is the role of an NPC officer? Police Life writers Nisar Keshvani and Jason Chua hit the beat and went on a tour of duty with a few of these pioneer NPCOs to get a first-hand experience of NPCO life.

It was all systems go from the moment we joined one of Queenstown NPC's Fast Response Cars for the "graveyard shift".

Fast Response Cars? Puzzled are you? Well, we were not in the wrong place. We too figured we would see the usual stream of cases such as complainants filing reports on accidents, noise pollution and domestic violence.

However we discovered that the NPC has FRCs which patrol various sectors. Like in normal police divisions, we were tasked to attend to urgent cases within our area.

As we started our patrol, we thought that the ride would not be as exciting as our divisional beat. It was soon proven wrong. We had not even progressed to patrol our sector when we received a message to attend to a case of domestic violence. Instead of trying to settle the matter and resuming patrol, the NPCOs performed a whole new ball game. They counselled the family.

"We must follow-up with this case. We will monitor their situation for at least six months to see if there isfurther spousal violence," said Cpl Md Jailani B Sin.

Instead of handing over the case to the Investigation Officer for follow-up action as is the norm, Cpl Jailani and his partner Cpl Yeap Wee Shiong actually provided their phone and even pager numbers in case family members needed help. We found it strange that everyone seemed to carry the same pagers, and were using a handphone with the NPC sticker on it.

We discovered that each officer carried a personal pager and the crew had a handphone to communicate with their NPC and external agencies.

"It is very thoughtful of the SPF to provide us with these communication tools. The hand-phones are especially useful - we do not clog up the radio airwaves, we can contact anybody we want and we no longer have to depend on the Ops Room staff," said Cpl Yeap.

Aside from their FRC duties, officers performed counter duties as well as foot patrol, allowing them to come into close contact with residents.The NPCOs struck us as being especially courteous and seemed to know the residents of the sectors on a first-name basis.

"Sometimes when we are on foot path trol we look out for 'estate' gossip. It is on occasions like these that we can pick up vital clues to help solve cases to nip problems in the bud," said Cpl Jailani.

Much to our surprise we learned that NPCOs were split into two teams consisting of 15 groups of four officers each. These teams were in charge of cases within their sectors.

Ingeniously, these officers were rostered to the same localities during their beats allowing them to know their areas more thoroughly and giving them an added sense of responsibility.

"My team is currently working together to solve a case. We have taken the necessary statements and are in the process of gathering concrete evidence. We have to work together with the other teams to look out for the suspect." Cpl Yeap disclosed.

Isn't investigation left to IOs from divisions, we asked ourselves. That's where we were wrong. When attending cases, these trained officers perform simple investigation, dusting for fingerprints and even doubling up as Scene of Crime Unit photographers.

Investigation papers are no longer foreign to these officers. Although young in service, they are tasked with the heavy responsibility of investiga-tion. Fortunately they have their Assistant Team Leaders (ATLs) who are seasoned investigators and have years of experience behind them.

"I don't know what we would do without our ATLs. They guide us along the way and I personally have picked up lots of investigating tips from them," said Cpl Maksom Bin Osland when we caught up with them during OE.

Aside from showing good investigation skills, they displayed a keen sense of responsibility when they had a quick meal and headed for their computers to key in their daily crime returns.

"We have to maximise our time. Our ATLs stay back to check our returns and ensure our statements and IPs are in order. The earlier we finish our returns, the more time our ATLs have to pass on their skills," explained PC Chang Cheng Wee.

The working environment was indeed a pleasant surprise. When we saw the hive of activity in the Team Office, we wondered if we were in the Operations Room.

Officers were busy finishing up their statements and some were even huddled in groups discussing the latest developments in their investigations. Somehow they looked familiar. Going closer, we realised some were in fact from the earlier shift. They had stayed beyond the end of their shift for either discussion or to finish paperwork and to tap the experience of their ATLs with regard to particular cases.

"Our environment motivates us to give our best. The latest gizmos sure aid us in our work. Although some-times we stay back to finish our work, we don't really mind. I guess it's a sign of our sheer commitment," said SC/Cpl Durrahim B Ahmad Jupat.

Upon finishing the earlier case and even before we could step out of the NPC, we were tasked to attend to a case of fighting. We felt a sudden boost of adrenaline and we rushed down to the scene, wheels a-screeching and blinkers a-flashing. We could not locate the com-plainant but with help from another FRC we found our "troublemakers". A little interviewing revealed they were actually the good guys. Upon advice from our Ops Room, we referred them to our divisional IOs.

Before we could say "NPC", the morning sun's rays crept onto our windshield. Although we were coming to the end of our shift, Cpl Jailani said, "We must visit Methodist Girls' School. The principal should be in today."

We found out that the school was in their sector. Aside from being patrolmen and investigators, our NPCOs were also liaison officers for schools in their areas. They kept a tab on schools, visited them regularly and gave the occasional crime prevention talk to the students.

"Policing has certainly changed from the early days when I joined the Force. I must say it is a challenge performing the dual role of FRC officer and investigator," said Cpl Yeap.

Nodding in agreement, Cpl Jailani said : "Today I feel like a complete policeman."

     

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