Photo Credit to Singapore Police Force - CO BMW DSP Jonathan Lim
Car chases. Police raids. Criminal investigations. Thanks to cop films, these are the common scenarios that most people associate policemen with. But in real life, what does it take to keep Singapore safe?
“Most people’s traditional notion of policemen is that they will appear when something bad happens. But police officers in Singapore play a very proactive role in the community to bring down crime and ensure that people are safe and free from harm,” says Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Jonathan Lim.
A commanding officer at the Bukit Merah West Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC), the 29-year-old has been with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) for six years. He started leading his current team of 100 police officers last year.
No two days are the same for DSP Lim. He can be called on to lead a team of police officers to respond to an emergency one day, and then on the next, be brainstorming with another team of police officers on how to keep the neighbourhood safe.
This year has been particularly action-packed for DSP Lim.
He welcomed New Year’s Day by leading an inter-agency operation against a suspect who had attacked a public servant. The suspect had locked himself in a Bukit Merah flat in a three-hour standoff that ended with his arrest. “We had to coordinate with other units to make sure that it was a successful arrest, but at the same time, we had to stop him from harming himself,” he recounts what he described as one of his most challenging assignments so far.
While others would prefer not to work on public holidays, DSP Lim sees the responsibilities as a badge of honour. “I think for all of us – the police force – there’s a sense of pride in knowing that we’re watching over people who are having a good time and keeping them safe,” he says.
Many hats, one goal
Not long after the standoff on New Year’s Day, he found himself facing a different type of foe – Covid-19. He has been part of the team that helped to move foreign workers to alternative lodgings to reduce the spread of the disease in dormitories, which saw a spike in cases in April this year.
“Covid-19 added an invisible enemy to the Police’s crime-fighting mission,” DSP Lim explains. “We have taken on the additional responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of foreign workers while re-housing them away from dormitories to stop the community spread. It’s a challenging time for the whole of Singapore – but we find in it a stronger sense of mission and purpose to keep Singapore safe.”
With the Covid-19 situation, there has been a jump in reports of online scams in Singapore, especially those related to e-commerce.
DSP Lim, too, is working hard on this front. He has developed strategies to prevent scammers from preying on people’s fears during uncertain times. “I think the question that we always ask ourselves is, ‘How can we equip or level up the public so that they can detect scams early, and prevent them from losing their money or personal information?’”
The police force has always been active in rolling out informational reminders about scams, but DSP Lim, who believes that the role of a policeman is never static, had his team at Bukit Merah West NPC extend their outreach through the use of memes and TikTok videos they produce themselves.
On their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BukitMerahWestNPC) are funny, light-hearted content aimed at reminding people to take extra care of their personal details and avoid falling for scams.
“What I really needed to do was to tap on the vast, latent potential of my younger and social media-savvy officers. By questioning and challenging norms of traditional government communications, I had unleashed the energy levels of my officers in ways I did not see before,” says DSP Lim. He helps his men with storyboarding and content creation. Since changing their online strategy, the team saw their online reach jump from two-figure views to six-figure views within a few days of posting a new video.
“Police work carries different challenges every day. For me, I find energy in learning how to solve problems in this job,” he says.
SPF Scholarship paves the way
DSP Lim says he has always been drawn to the idea of keeping a community safe and protecting its people from harm.
“When I was younger, my idea of police officers is that they are community guardians who watch over society, watch over a space, watch over residents and allow them to sleep safely at night,” he says.
“Now that I’m a police officer, the base notion doesn’t change, but there are several dimensions added to my perspective now. There is a huge submerged part of the iceberg that the public does not see in terms of police work.”
He applied for the SPF Scholarship because he knew it would offer him a rewarding career with the police force, where he would be given the opportunity to protect Singapore and its people.
The scholarship was awarded to him in 2010, just after he finished junior college. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law at the University of Virginia and furthered his studies by pursuing a Master of Philosophy in Criminology at the University of Cambridge. He returned to the SPF in 2014 after completing his studies.
“The scholarship allowed me to pursue my dreams of studying abroad at renowned universities and to learn from the very best in the field. I would not have been able to afford such an education otherwise,” he explains. “It allowed me to focus on my personal development and education, so I can contribute to the SPF and to the public in the time to come.”
What advice does DSP Lim have for young people at the crossroads between scholarship options and career choices?
“If you want a fast-paced career with strong camaraderie and a fulfilling daily mission, the SPF is the place for you. For sure, there will be rough and exhausting days, but there will be irreplaceable experiences and an unequalled sense of purpose.”