Captions: It gives Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Lee Huan Ting great satisfaction to know that his work has enabled Singaporeans to feel safe. PHOTO: FRENCHESCAR LIM
By Aster Tan
You return home alone at 1am. Your kids go to school on their own. You do not think twice about these routines, just like many other Singaporeans.
No wonder then that in 2020, Gallup’s Law and Order Index ranked the Republic top, for the sixth year running. This recognition – of Singaporeans feeling safer than residents of any other place in the world – is a source of pride for Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (DAC) Lee Huan Ting from the Singapore Police Force (SPF).
“The freedom to go about your business without worrying about crime or fearing disorder is so precious. It gives me great satisfaction to know that the hard work and efforts of the Home Team have contributed to this outcome,” he says.
Allaying Singaporeans’ concerns by solving cases and righting injustices were what attracted him to sign on with the Force. He was then 18 and had just completed his A levels at Raffles Junior College.
“As I contemplated my future then, I knew that I wanted a career that was not just about oneself, but also about making a difference for others,” the 33-year-old says. He had his pick of a few scholarships but felt he could contribute more meaningfully in the Police Force. He signed up for an SPF Overseas Scholarship, which has been renamed the Singapore Police Force Scholarship in 2007.
Says DAC Lee: “An SPF scholarship also offered a pathway to an overseas college experience, and subsequently a career that promised both meaning and excitement. The SPF also had the allure of a non-deskbound job filled with dynamism and adventure, and that was difficult to resist.”
MAKING AN IMPACT
Thirteen years after joining the Force, his desire to make a difference still burns bright, fuelled by advancements and rotations every two years or so. He also has had a chance to make an impact on the international stage.
In 2017, DAC Lee, who graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Economics, was a Singapore delegate at the United Nations General Assembly. Then Head of Branch of the Police Intelligence Department (PID), he delivered statements articulating the country’s firm stand on drugs and crime. He also took part in multilateral negotiations to safeguard Singapore’s interests at the UN.
The following year, he was part of the SPF team that helped to organise the historic 2018 Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore. His team at PID was responsible for conducting sense-making – uncovering potential threats, obstacles and challenges to the successful execution of the summit, so that mitigating measures could be put in place. It was a critical mission as then-US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are well-known global figures.
Preparation work began as soon as they learnt of the possibility of the summit being held in Singapore. In the run-up to the event, DAC Lee and his officers worked on shift, 24/7, to cover as much ground as possible.
DAC Lee says: “All of us in the SPF were acutely aware that we could not afford any hiccups as the global spotlight was on our tiny island. l think Singapore pulled off the event remarkably. All of us in the SPF, myself included, were immensely proud to have been part of this effort.”
A payoff much closer to his heart was when he was on secondment to the Ministry of Home Affairs from 2018 to 2020, and helped to conduct the review which led to the amendment of Singapore's Penal Code in 2019. The multi-year effort brought about changes such as abolition of marital immunity for rape, updating of laws against sexual offences like voyeurism and revenge pornography, and greater protection for the victims of domestic violence.
“The Penal Code is one of the most foundational pieces of legislation in Singapore (other than the Constitution) as it ensures legal protection for everyone from criminal offences. Being able to broaden that legal umbrella to shelter more people and provide them with more protection was also my way of making a difference,” says DAC Lee.
A JOURNEY IN LEADERSHIP
Last year, he returned to the SPF and took up his current role as Deputy Commander of Central Division to help foster its smooth running from operations and training to manpower and logistics.
Reflecting on his career so far, DAC Lee describes a journey in leadership that has allowed him to set personal milestones.
“Every single role has enabled me to grow, not just in terms of experience, but also in my understanding of the art of leadership. As a uniformed organisation, the SPF places a premium on leadership, and I have had the fortune to work under inspirational bosses,” he notes.
The SPF has a structured framework, not just for scholarship recipients, but also for all officers, to groom leaders. Having had the chance to attend courses, such as the Command and Staff Course, at a younger age, DAC Lee was able to develop his leadership potential early.
“We were also thrust into positions of command at a fairly young age. It can be quite a daunting experience, but I always sought to give my best, and ensure that I leave every team in a better position than when I fi rst joined them,” he says.
More than a decade on, DAC Lee admits that receiving his SPF scholarship is now a distant memory but his reason for joining the Force has not slipped his mind.
He says: “The reason why I still choose to wear blue every day is because I understand that the measure of one’s life is the impact you have on others. And what greater impact can there be, than to work in service of your fellow Singaporeans, to give them a home where they feel safe.”
Visit www.police.gov.sg/Join-SPF/Police-Off icer/Scholarships-and-Awards for more information.