SINGAPORE - When Ms Shermaine Ang approached a few female police officers at a career chat session at her school Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) last year, she first asked them if it was difficult to work in a male-dominated environment.
“They said no because everyone in the police force, whether male or female, cares for the same cause and if you are capable, you will be given opportunities,” the 19-year-old said.
That cemented her desire to join the police force because it made her realise that women have an equal part to play in protecting the country, contrary to what she saw on television, where most frontline officers were males.
“The officers also told me that they were able to see a side of society that you cannot see in the ordinary working world… and I am someone who cares for people. I felt these aspects of the job were important to me.”
On Monday (Aug 5), she became the first woman to receive the Singapore Police Force Scholarship (SPFS), one of the most prestigious scholarships awarded by the Public Service Commission. The SPFS was first awarded in 1979, and this year marks the 70th year of women in the police force.
She was among the 23 recipients of scholarships given out by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) at a ceremony in the Istana.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, who was the guest of honour, noted that more students were interested in a Home Team career this year compared to previous years.
“The percentage of Public Service Commission scholarship applicants who put the Home Team as their first choice was the highest in the last five years, ranking third among all scholarship schemes, after the Teaching and PSC (Open) scholarships,” said Mr Shanmugam.
The other three recipients of the SPFS are Mr Justin Quek, 19, and Mr Warren Liow, 19, both from Raffles Institution, and Mr Yiik Chia, 20, from HCI.
The SPFS is awarded annually to students who have excelled in their studies and co-curricular activities, and who display strong leadership qualities. Before being selected, they must excel in the Officer Cadet School (OCS) as well.
Ms Ang will read history at the University of Oxford, and Mr Quek will study chemistry and food science at the National University of Singapore. Mr Liow has opted for liberal arts at the University of Chicago while Mr Chia will read psychology and biological sciences at the Nanyang Technological University.
They will spend the first six years of their careers in various departments in the SPF to develop their investigation acumen, policy conceptualisation skills and leadership abilities.
The MHA also introduced a new category of scholarship this year - the MHA Merit Scholarship (MMS) - which was awarded to two individuals under the Singapore Government Scholarship and Local Merit Scholarship sub-categories.
The MMS is given to candidates who are passionate about contributing to Singapore’s safety and security in civilian appointments such as psychology, intelligence and commercial affairs.
In his speech, Mr Shanmugam highlighted hate speech, rapidly evolving technology and cybercrimes as worrying trends that the Home Team must be extra vigilant about.
“Our overall crime rate has been falling… (but) it increased in 2018, due largely to increases in cyber-enabled scams. The increasing popularity of cryptocurrency makes tracking the flow of funds more difficult.”
He added: “And offline, drones are becoming an increasingly common sight. The runway closures at Changi Airport about two months ago show they can cause damage and mischief.”
One of the SPFS recipients, Mr Quek, is the son of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Adrian Quek and veteran actress Huang Biren. Mr Quek’s grandfather was a police officer and his grandmother was an operator in the force.
Mr Quek said it was his six-year stint as a scout from secondary school to junior college that made him consider pursuing a career in the uniformed services. He hopes to join the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which his father was a part of.
“I used to ask my dad about his cases, but he never shared anything because they were confidential. To me, (CID) is the most mysterious and exciting part, which I have to find out more about on my own,” said Mr Quek.
On being the first female recipient of the SPFS, Ms Ang said: “I feel thankful that I have the opportunity, regardless of gender, to be awarded this scholarship and I hope this will show that females also care about defence. I believe that protecting the country is everyone’s job and not just the men’s.”
Her three-month course at OCS earlier this year was gruelling - she got scolded by her instructors and felt she was not as fit as her male counterparts.
“But instances of working together with my platoon mates and developing camaraderie in the face of challenges were moments I enjoyed and treasured. Through OCS, I was sure that I would get to be part of a great team in SPF,” said Ms Ang.