She went undercover to nab criminals

She went undercover to nab criminals
MEMORIES: Ms Rosalind Tan with a photo of the eighth batch of female police officers at the Police Training School in 1951.
PHOTO: The New Paper

When she joined the Singapore Police Force (SPF) as a 17-year-old in 1951, she did not expect to take on the role of human bait often.

But that is how Ms Rosalind Tan, 80, became one of the first female police investigating officers in Singapore.

She was sent undercover into an opium den to nab drug addicts, made to walk a dark road to flush out a snatch thief, and infiltrated an illegal gambling den to arrest tais tais with too much money to spend.

Yesterday, Ms Tan was recognised among the 1,000 pioneers who served in the police at SPF's Appreciation Night for pioneers at Capitol Theatre. Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran attended the event.

For 23 years, she worked at the Central Police Station, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Queenstown police station. Her duties included escorting female prisoners.

But she was also involved in several historic cases like the Nanyang Girls' School and Chung Cheng High School protests in 1956, where she arrested some of the students.

Unhappy with the banning of pro-communist groups, more than 5,000 Chinese middle-school students turned up to protest in their schools.

Then Minister of Education Chew Wee Kee ordered 11 Chinese middle schools to expel 142 students and fire two teachers, while seven other teachers were issued warnings.

But being a police officer was not her first-choice career.

Ms Tan said: "I wanted to be a nurse, but my qualifications were not high. My stepsister, who was married with four children, joined the police force and she asked me to join too."

BAIT

Soon, her colleagues saw how they could use her gender to nab unsuspecting criminals - by deploying her as bait.

It would be a new tactic and one that would prove hugely successful.

Retired detective Davy Chan, 68, explained: "Women police officers were needed on raids because if women were there, and the suspects were women, they could always turn around and accuse the police of outrage of modesty."

He was a cop for 12 years and was awarded a Police Gallantry Medal in 1976.

Ms Tan had to knock on doors during countless drug raids on opium dens in Chinatown before her male colleagues rushed in to arrest addicts.

On another assignment, she walked alone down Oxley Road at 9pm, armed with only a whistle and waiting to be pounced on by a snatch thief.

Her male colleagues were hiding in nearby bushes.

The thief was caught on the third night.

Ms Tan later served in the CID under the gambling branch and went undercover as a gambler in an illegal gambling den at Bukit Timah Road.

It was mainly patronised by wealthy middle-aged women.

Ms Tan knocked on the door and convinced the lookout she was a gambler.

When the door opened, the police raided the place and arrested around 20 unsuspecting gamblers.

Ms Tan loved her job so much, she continued working while heavily pregnant with her third child.

Her oldest son, 56, is a machinist; her second son, 52, is an operations manager and her daughter, 54, is a secretary. She has eight grandchildren in their 20s, seven boys and a girl.

Ms Tan even arrested a friend once.

Her superiors sent her and a male colleague to check on a woman officer working at Customs who was suspected of taking bribes.

She was shocked to see it was a friend from her kampung.

Ms Tan searched her and found over $100 cash hidden in her clothes.

Her friend knelt down and pleaded with her to let her go.

But she was arrested.

By chance, both women met again years later in church.

Ms Tan said: "We found each other and became friends again because what is past is past."


This article was first published on August 1, 2015.
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