Home Team heroes behind the scenes

Officers from MHA keep Singapore safe and secure beyond the frontline

A psychologist, an assistant director of policy development and an SCDF captain are some of the Home Team officers working behind the scenes to protect Singapore’s safety and security. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

Among an army of talented people with a passion to serve Singapore are a prison psychologist, an assistant director who looks into policies and a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) captain. Together, they make up part of a strong network of professionals at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), working seamlessly together to protect the country's safety and security.

The ministry, also known as the Home Team, comprises 11 agencies that include the Ministry Headquarters, Singapore Police Force (SPF), Internal Security Department (ISD), SCDF, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Singapore Prison Service (SPS), Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Home Team Academy (HTA), Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) and Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE).

Rehabilitating lives

While most people are familiar with the work of frontline officers who keep the nation safe, there is a group of MHA officers working behind the scenes to protect lives and safeguard the social fabric of Singapore.

One such individual is SPS Psychologist Arvina Manoo, who attained her Masters in Clinical Forensic Psychology from King's College London under a postgraduate scholarship in 2018. A key part of her job is to rehabilitate male offenders through group therapy.

She has encountered many different and difficult life experiences shared by offenders as she walks alongside them on their journey of change. But from these, stories of hope, strength and optimism emerge.

Ms Arvina often conducts one-on-one psychological sessions with inmates, to help them understand the reasons behind their choices, and move forward with healthier mindsets and behaviours. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

The 30-year-old also teaches community responders psychological first aid under the SGSecure initiative. In addition, she was part of a taskforce that studied how to turn around young drug abusers.

Ms Arvina feels that even though her job can be challenging at times, it is immensely rewarding.

"The feeling of having your client return to their family with the progress they have made in their rehabilitation is amazing. You are not just making an impact to your client's life, but the important people in his life as well," she says.

Being a psychologist was not her initial plan for a career. Growing up, Ms Arvina was intrigued by how people behave. She had thought about becoming a teacher but kept changing her mind about it. All she knew was that she wanted to help people.

After she submitted her undergraduate dissertation, she came across a job posting for a psychologist at SPS which appealed to her in every aspect - clinical work in the rehabilitation of offenders, training and research. Taking on the job thus began her journey on helping others in need.

"Most importantly, I would be helping a population that deserves a second chance," she says.

Keeping Singapore safe through policymaking

Another Home Team officer working behind the scenes to keep Singapore secure is Mr Terence Tang, who formulates policies to regulate gambling activities and gambling products such as casinos and fruit machines in private clubs. He also thinks of ways to keep our policies and regulations one step ahead of the fast-changing gambling landscape.

At his previous posting with the Joint Operations Group, Mr Tang worked hand-in-hand with his uniformed colleagues in safeguarding Singapore's safety and security during major public order events. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

As Assistant Director of Policy Development at the Policy Development Division at MHA, he is part of the team that worked to minimise the harms caused by fruit machines in private clubs, and worked closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to implement social safeguards to protect vulnerable individuals. These included disallowing the deployment of NETS terminals within gaming rooms and prohibiting the advertising and promotion of the fruit machine rooms.

Mr Tang is happy that he can make a difference to people's lives.

"Even though it takes time before policies can be pushed to the ground, seeing the significant impact it makes on peoples' lives when it is implemented, makes me feel that my work is meaningful," he says.

Homeland security the digital way

Captain Leon Yip, Senior Staff Officer for Innovation Development at SCDF is part of a team that works with industry partners, from multinational corporations to institutes of higher learning, to develop new technology to digitise the organisation's business processes and service journeys.

"This includes encouraging the use of data across all organisational levels - right down to each fire station - to drive the decisions we make regarding policy and daily operations," says the 28-year-old.

Leading the SCDF innovation front, CPT Yip is constantly exploring new technologies and leveraging them to enhance SCDF's operational capabilities. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

Using data drawn from daily operations, SCDF is able to help deploy ambulances at various locations during peak hours of response where higher demand is expected.

He would like the public to know that there is more to homeland security than the "rough and tumble of responding to the call of duty".

"That is just the tip of the iceberg," he explains. "What people do not typically see is the thought and consideration that SCDF officers put into the design of policies and regulations, backed by research, analysis and comparisons."

Right from the start of planning for his career, CPT Yip already knew he wanted to pursue a mission-driven one. He took on the MHA Local Merit Scholarship in 2011 and pursued a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Sociology) from the National University of Singapore, before joining SCDF after graduation.

When he is not at the frontline attending to emergencies, CPT Yip takes pride in serving the public and his fellow officers in other ways.

"It spurs me on when I see the new developments I am involved in giving our professional responders and Community First Responders a better outcome in serving the public, and keeping Singapore safe and secure," he says.

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