Role of citizen-cops

Role of citizen-cops
Bukit Panjang Government High School teachers Lim Jun Sheng (in police uniform) and Zizi Elliza (third from left) speaking to some students. Mr Lim is an honorary Volunteer Special Constabulary officer vested with full police powers to deal with student-related matters in the school.


More than just a job is the tagline of the latest recruitment drive of the Singapore Police Force.

It leverages not just "real-life safety, law and order and security challenges that confront our society" but also the human dramas that may unfold at home or the workplace when violence flares up or disruptions occur.

It is a big job indeed "protecting our country, our community and our loved ones", as the police website says, in many diverse ways around the clock. And it's a job that certainly can't be done alone.

Citizens must play a part too - to help address the causes of crime, provide timely assistance to detect offenders, and work jointly on neighborhood concerns in ways that go beyond a narrow focus on individual crimes in the area.

Neighbourhood watch schemes are helpful in reporting incidents as soon as they arise. But there is scope for proactive roles as well and it is gratifying to note that there are more than 9,000 citizen crime fighters and double that number in community emergency response teams who are trained in first aid and other skills.

The Citizens on Patrol groups have been trained by the police on safety, observation skills and crime prevention measures. Those who wish to do more may join the Volunteer Special Constabulary.

Enforcement duties aside, the police ads also project the calming presence of a man and woman in blue when a tense situation needs to be defused. There is sufficient scope in all these roles to appeal to a broad range of citizens who wish to offer a helping hand to maintain law and order in the community.

The right motivation and temperament are vital as these can condition the efforts and responses of such volunteers. Certainly, vigilantes would be out of place here.

Gung-ho but ill-trained volunteers are also not useful. But when directed skilfully, citizens can help in organising people and rendering aid when one-off incidents occur or when the community is facing tumultuous times. Challenging jobs call for many willing and able hands.

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