Online training for Home Team officers likely to continue amid Covid-19 pandemic

Singapore Prison Service officers going through a Physical Training incorporating Tactical Manoeuvres at the Home Team Academy. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Since Covid-19 hit and took in-class sessions out, Home Team Academy (HTA) trainers have had to adapt their programmes so officers could still receive training essential to their work.

From Zoom to digital journal mobile apps and even video calls, Home Team officers from agencies such as the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Singapore Police Force and Singapore Prison Service tapped every tool at their disposal to keep the training momentum going.

The officers described how they did it in interviews with The Straits Times over two days from Thursday (March 11).

Ms Seah Wang Ling, a psychologist who works with CNB, said training had to continue following a 2019 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which saw drug supervision extended from two years to five years after an abuser's release from DRC or prison.

The 29-year-old said CNB officers had to be trained under the Community Supervision Skills course to better identify the needs of the drug supervisees, so they can be referred to social service agencies.

They also needed to learn to work with the supervisees in long-term pro-social behaviour to stay drug-free, added Ms Seah.

With face-to-face sessions out, she took to video calls and spoke to individual officers, to guide them through the new course.

"It's not just about picking up the skills, but also helping (officers) apply them in the work context (and) use reflective discussions to help them see what's the importance of this," she said.

Superintendent of Police Brian Lin Zhiyong, who is the director of HTA's Centre for Learning Systems, said plans to leverage technology had been in place prior to the pandemic.

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Like many institutions, the Home Team Academy has adapted to the new rules of the pandemic, finding alternative ways to continue officer training programmes.

"We have always been constantly trying to adopt and apply all these new innovative ways of training, but the Covid-19 (pandemic) really accelerated everything," said the 42-year-old.

In just two months, HTA adapted core courses that all 1,500 HTA trainers had to undergo, with most taught virtually.

In recognition of trainers who quickly adapted their programmes amid the pandemic, the Home Team last December gave out nine individual and five team awards.

Ms Seah received the top award for an adjunct trainer for developing the Community Supervision Skills course.

Supt Lin said the online programmes are likely to continue.

"I don't foresee any 'derailer' that will that will make us go back to purely face to face again," he added.

Home Team Academy Director, Centre of Learning Systems and Superintendent of Police Brian Lin Zhiyong. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Instead, he said training will be take on a blended form of both physical and virtual modes since some skills cannot be taught online.

Like those involving operational skills taught at the Police Coast Guard (PCG) Training School.

Superintendent Ahamed Gouse Hameed Basha, who is in charge of the PCG Training School, said courses like Tactical Boat Handling could not be taught online as "it's really all about hands-on experience".

So with safe distancing measures in place, the PCG continued to operate the Tactical Boat Handling and Firing Simulator system at its headquarters in Brani Way from March last year.

The simulation system allows officers to emulate the bumpy ride PCG crafts are subjected to, said Supt Basha, whose team won Training Unit of the Year.

The 41-year-old said online and offline programmes only work with dedicated trainers.

"To really make effective use of this technology to bring out the full potential of the trainees, you really need the trainers who have the heart and mind, the drive and passion to ensure that the trainees leave the lesson more enriched than before," he added.

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