For almost 20 years, the Central Narcotics Bureau's (CNB) elite Special Task Force (STF) officers have been operating with little fanfare, but when a major drug bust here is announced, there is a high chance they were involved.
As many as 13 recent operations bore their trademark tactics - swift and stealthy action.
Until CNB declared that a $250,000 drug seizure on Aug 24 was the work of the STF, the last known report crediting the unit for a successful operation was in 2014.
Formed in 1997, the unit is part of CNB's intelligence division. It recently stepped out of the shadows in a series of videos on Facebook and Instagram called #CNB247.
The videos, which can be found on the Facebook page "CNB Drug Free SG", showcase STF's skills, including vehicle interception, realistic effects training - where officers are shot at with non-lethal marking bullets - dynamic entry skills, and unarmed combat.
A CNB spokesman said: "We decided to showcase the Special Task Force as we wanted to highlight the good, tough and dangerous work that they do, putting their lives on the line to help fight for a safer and drug-free Singapore."
The Straits Times was given an inside look at the unit's training regime over two days late last month.
During a rigorous self-defence training exercise, this ST reporter was "stabbed", slammed down many times and shot at six times while carrying a heavy 8kg ballistic shield in a room-clearing exercise that involved gunmen.
The last of the STF videos (#CNB247) was released on CNB's Facebook page yesterday. CNB said the various exercises test the STF officer's reaction, firearm skills and resolve, all vital in high-risk operations.
Seconds within which a team must gain entry before the drugs are disposed of.
Element of surprise needed
STF senior assistant director William Tan, who holds the rank of superintendent, said: "STF is getting more relevant in today's context. We need them to be specially trained in our skills and tools to handle drug syndicates which are more sophisticated than before."
The latest operation the unit was involved in took place on Tuesday, where nearly 1.5kg of heroin worth over $100,000 was seized. Six people were arrested.
CNB said the unit primarily exploits the element of surprise. A strike team must gain entry into the premises within 30 seconds, before the drugs are disposed of.
During the training exercise ST witnessed, three STF officers dressed in fire-resistant overalls and bulletproof vests breached a flat with ease, using tools like a bolt cutter and a mini-ram.
The unit is also equipped with the Xaver 400, a device which uses radar technology to "see" through walls.
To be a member of the elite unit, a regular CNB officer must first go through a selection process, where physical fitness, endurance and mental aptitude are tested in various scenarios. Only then would the candidate be eligible to take part in the three-month STF course.
Supt Tan said the various types of training help to prepare the officers for real scenarios they will face on the ground, which include suspects fleeing or putting up a fight. He said: "The officers have different options - they have their voice, they have their hands, they even have their batons and they have their pistols.
"Which is the appropriate force to use? The use of force must not be excessive," Supt Tan added.