ASP Timothy Yap said he is often heartened by the instances of everyday heroism he has witnessed on the job.
Even as Singapore gradually recovers from the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the road ahead remains challenging and uncertain. This includes dealing with social problems wrought by the pandemic, such as family violence and mental health issues. Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Timothy Yap also notes that Singaporeans need to be prepared for the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 and how it will affect crime trends and community relationships.
Despite the challenges ahead, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) remains steadfast in safeguarding Singapore, even in these uncertain times.
“People in the community naturally look to police officers to take charge in difficult situations,” adds ASP Yap. “They are routinely relied upon to maintain a cool head in the face of unpredictable circumstances, and to make sound decisions with limited information under demanding and stressful conditions. We know how important it is to listen and to work closely with the community.”
A JOB THAT TESTS METTLE AND RESOLVE
From his first day on the job in 2017, ASP Yap has been honing his leadership skills. “I have learnt that, at its core, exercising leadership entails two things. The first is a readiness to make sacrifices in the line of duty, putting the interests of others above our own,” he explains. “The second is a willingness to make tough decisions and stand firmly by them while also having the humility to concede that we may not always be right.”
The 26-year-old has been making his rounds in the various functions, starting as a Ground Response Force officer at Bukit Merah East Neighbourhood Police Centre, then moving on to do investigation work in the Special Victims Unit of the Central Division. Currently, as a Senior Investigation Officer at the Special Investigation Section of the Criminal Investigation Department, he investigates major crimes such as homicides, firearms offences and kidnappings.
There is never a dull day on the job. In just over three years, ASP Yap has responded to “999” emergencies as a patrol officer, investigated and arrested sexual predators, and attended to scenes of unnatural deaths and violent homicides. The young officer says: “These situations have undoubtedly been difficult, distressing and tragic. Yet, these are also moments where the mission at hand is the most critical — to relentlessly pursue the truth, to comfort the broken-hearted and to bring the offenders to justice. It is a real test of mettle and resolve, one that builds strength of character.”
On the flip side, ASP Yap is also heartened by the instances of everyday heroism he has witnessed on the job. Many crimes have been solved with the assistance of public-spirited witnesses who come forward to provide crucial evidence. To that end, policing work has offered ASP Yap a glimpse into the vicissitudes of life and provided insight into how people in various segments of society live.
HUMAN FACE OF THE LAW
ASP Yap wanted to serve in the SPF because of his interest in criminal justice and legal affairs. He had considered a career as a prosecutor or criminal lawyer but, ultimately, it was his firsthand experience of police work while shadowing officers on duty that drew him to don a uniform instead of a robe.
“The experience showed me that policing practices and policies have a direct and tangible impact on people’s lives. One might even say that police officers are the human face of the law, being in a position to shape people’s lived experiences and perceptions of the authorities. Fair, effective and humane enforcement builds trust and instils confidence in the justice system,” he says.
After his A levels, ASP Yap was awarded the President’s Scholarship and Singapore Police Force Scholarship. He went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Jurisprudence (Law) at the University of Oxford in England. Afterwards, ASP Yap extended his studies by a year at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to receive a master’s degree in law.
While a law degree may not seem immediately applicable to police work, ASP Yap says he wanted to develop an understanding of the principles and philosophies underpinning the very laws he would be trained to uphold asan officer. “A legal education challenges the mind and develops character. It is intellectually rigorous and fulfilling, training you to think critically to weigh arguments and to approach problems from different perspectives. Most importantly, it also invites you to consider complex social, political and ethical issues that influence the development of a society’s legal system,” he explains.
However, he also points out that just having laws is not sufficient to deter would-be offenders unless they are enforced — and are seen to be enforced — with certainty and fairness.
He views criminal investigations as a rigorous craft — every case has unique aspects and presents a distinct challenge. Much like how police work is a melding of his interest in criminal justice and legal affairs, cracking a case often relies on a combination of interviewing skills, legal knowledge, forensics and problem-solving smarts. “It is certainly not as glamorous as the TV shows would have you believe, and there are times when the work feels tiresome and thankless. Yet, the opportunities for learning and personal growth are second to none,” he says.
As he grows and matures as a police officer, ASP Yap has one key objective — to safeguard Singapore’s way of life by solving crime. “It matters greatly to me that in Singapore, we can go about our daily pursuits freely and with peace of mind, assured that our safety is in good hands,” he adds.