The ‘A’ Division NS Commander of the Singapore Police Force, DAC (NS) Patrick Fung, has witnessed a lifetime’s worth of changes during his 40 years in service.
TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA
PHOTOS: DAC (NS) PATRICK FUNG
For a sense of how the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has evolved, look no further than senior officers like DAC (NS) Patrick Fung, 56, who enlisted in the mid-1980s. This transformation is even evident in the way National Service officers are selected to join the SPF. “It was a different path to the Force back then,” he recalls. “We all did our Basic Military Training on Pulau Tekong and a handful of us were selected for training at the Police Academy from there, unlike today, when most start with police training.”
DAC (NS) Fung was first posted to Police HQ, within its Strategic Planning Department. He only began serving in a land division – in his case, the ‘A’ Division – during his subsequent in-camp training cycles, whenever he returned on holiday from law school in the United Kingdom.
Patrolling the streets of Singapore in the early 1990s was an “eye-opening” experience. “I got to see a very different side of Singapore,” he reminisces. “On the surface, everything is very nice and polished. But when you start walking the streets, you’re exposed to another side of life: Suicide, domestic disputes.” Like many of his counterparts, DAC (NS) Fung acknowledges that he himself had lived quite a sheltered life. “But being in the Force was a privilege as I got to see and understand these social issues first-hand and not take our own luck for granted.”
He remembers the first suicide he was dispatched to assist with. “I think it was in Toa Payoh. Back then, we didn’t have those blue tents to cover the bodies. We had to use newspapers, or whatever we could find to clean up the area.”
How would today’s officers fare in that world? “It was a different time,” he stresses. “There was no channel for us to talk about how we felt or to prepare us for what we were going to do. Of course, that’s not the case anymore. Now, the wellbeing of our officers is something we are very concerned about — and with good reason, I think.”
CHANGES FOR THE BETTER
As the NS Commander of the Singapore Police Force’s ‘A’ Division, DAC (NS) Fung is tasked to look after the welfare and wellbeing of his NSMen. Structural changes have made this easier, as there are policies to support SPF officers, both NS and regular. “These extend to mental wellbeing and care, which is very encouraging,” he explains.
He sheds light on progressive changes within the organization as well. “Most admirably, we’ve moved away from being a ‘boys’ club’ — women now have a place in every part of the SPF, which was very different from the past, when they were restricted to operating our phone lines or manning our stations. As a father of three daughters, I can confidently encourage any of them to take up a career in the SPF today.”
DAC (NS) Fung also oversees the deployment of NSmen to support key events in the ‘A’ Division, which covers central Singapore. Given this area, this means that he and his team are responsible for supporting the security operations for major events like the F1 Grand Prix, New Year’s countdown parties and the Shangri La Dialogue. But the event that stands out the most to him is the annual National Day Parade, which comes under the ‘A’ Division’s purview, whether it is held at the Padang or the Marina Bay Floating Platform. “I think the only time we didn’t support it was during the first year of COVID-19, when it was held at the STAR Arts Performing Theatre.”
NDP holds a special significance to the servicemen of ‘A’ Division shares DAC (NS) Fung. “And because we do so many events a year, our people are quite up to date on what needs to be done. Doing it once gives our men a good idea of what is expected of them. Through regular deployments like these, our NSmen can build closer working relationships with their regular counterparts and learn more about current policing procedures.”
It is usually at events like these that many of his men interact with members of the public as well. Just as the SPF has evolved to meet with the times, it has also had to rethink the way it interacts with the public. “In the old days, you could easily get compliance from the public. But as our population has become more educated and discerning, we have had to change our tack,” he explains. “There may be questions about our procedures and instructions, so our officers need to be trained to answer those sensitively and yet, firmly.” In this area, NS officers have an advantage over their regular counterparts. “They spend most of the year as civilians, so they definitely have a good grasp of public sentiment.”
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