Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Elaine Sim is often clad in her 17kg “full battle armour” that includes a submachine gun, pistol, bullet-resistant vest, ballistic helmet and extra rounds of ammunition.
The Team Leader of the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Emergency Response Team (ERT) from Central Division is always armed and ready for a simple reason: Officers from the ERT can be dispatched at any time to respond to incidents involving dangerous weapons or firearms. Such incidents can range from domestic disputes involving knives and slashing incidents to terror attacks.
ASP Sim, who is a recipient of the Local Merit Scholarship under the MHA Uniformed Scholarships (SPF), carries the same load while patrolling areas under the Division’s operational terrain as well as places with high footfall, such as shopping malls and tourist attractions.
ERT teams typically operate in small groups of four to five officers with one of them assuming the role of Team Leader.
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On top of being activated for armed incidents, ERT officers also engage with various stakeholders such as operators and management teams of shopping malls and high-traffic venues.
Through regular walkabouts and engagements, the ERT team can better understand the environment and terrain they may have to operate in, address possible security gaps as well as develop contingency plans and conduct various security exercises. This allows the Police to respond more effectively to public security incidents.
To that end, simulated exercises are held on a regular basis for ERT officers – as well as officers from the various Home Team agencies – to familiarise them with their roles and responsibilities should an incident take place.
To meet the demands of their job, ASP Sim and her team of ERT officers are highly trained in the use of weapons and combat tactics.
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ASP Elaine Sim’s mother played a critical part in shaping her career choice.
“When I was younger, my mother would always share with me stories of her National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) days and how she herself intended to be a Police officer,” she says.
These anecdotes inspired her to join the National Cadet Corps (NCC) as a co-curricular activity in secondary school, where she had the rare opportunity to try her hand at handling weapons such as the M16 and SAR21 rifles.
“In secondary school, I had the chance to fire live rounds and even participate in an International Cadet Exchange Programme with the New Zealand Cadet Forces,” she recalls fondly.
ASP Sim enjoyed the camaraderie forged at the weekly trainings and annual camps during her time in NCC.
“We were unified as one and working towards a common goal. The sense of camaraderie within a uniformed organisation was what drew me to sign on with the SPF,” she says.
Receiving the Local Merit Scholarship in 2014, ASP Sim chose to read life sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS) because she was an inquisitive and rational person by nature.
Furthermore, she had always been a fan of crime and forensic-related TV dramas, such as the hugely popular Forensic Heroes series by Hong Kong broadcaster TVB. That was why she also did a minor in forensic science. ASP Sim graduated from NUS with first class honours in 2018.
“The tactical combat aspect of ERT is physically and mentally demanding, so it is crucial to maintain physical fitness and tactical acumen to be always ready for any armed or public security incidents,” says the 27-year-old.
While ERT officers undergo physical training and simulated exercises to maintain their physical fitness and sharpen their tactical skills, ASP Sim also runs and practises yoga regularly.
It is also important for ERT officers to keep abreast of current affairs and stay updated on tactics and operating procedures to deal with terror incidents.
Behind that tough exterior
Yet, ASP Sim believes that policing is not all about being tough and displaying strength. Over the past four years, the officer says she has been learning to find the right balance between empathy and firmness.
When it comes to perpetrators of crimes, it can be easy to paint them with the same brush.
“My time as an Investigation Officer (IO) has taught me that while it is important to ensure that justice is served, it is equally important to understand the plight of the perpetrator and provide them with assistance, where appropriate or necessary,” she says.
ASP Sim was an IO at Tanglin Division for two years before she assumed her current role as an ERT Team Leader at Central Division. Before that, she was a Ground Response Force (GRF) Officer in Orchard Neighbourhood Police Centre under Tanglin Division.
“People often come to us for help, be it complainants, victims or even defendants,” she says. “Treating every individual with objectivity and fairness, regardless of their background and identity, is one of the main cornerstones of our mission to deter and detect crime.”
Joining the SPF as a newbie can be daunting, but for ASP Sim, the Vacation Attachment Programme (VAP) she participated in as part of her scholarship eased her into the policing world gently.
During the first year of the programme, she had the chance to learn about the training regimes within the Home Team Departments and was exposed to the various facets of policing through visits to multiple departments in SPF.
Subsequently, during the second and third years of the VAP, scholarship recipients like her were attached to the different departments within the Force as “interns” to have a more hands-on and broad-based policing experience.
“The exercises and deployments I was a part of intrigued me and further assured me that my journey with the SPF would be an interesting one,” says ASP Sim.
Culture of teamwork and mentorship
Such is the nurturing culture in the SPF that she knew that she could always look to her superiors for advice.
“We never felt alone, and I knew that I had supportive bosses to fall back on. This reaffirmed my commitment to be a genuine and sincere leader myself – one who is there for my team,” she says.
ASP Sim has also come to appreciate the importance of open communication with her team, such as clearly sharing the rationale behind some of her decisions as a Team Leader.
“Effective communication is a two-way street – listening attentively with an open mind and heart is key,” she explains.
“Even though I have my own perspective, it is crucial to actively listen to the team members and to be receptive to constructive feedback on how I can be a better listener, team player and leader.”
|About SPF scholarships
The Singapore Police Force offers various scholarships and awards to candidates who demonstrate strong leadership qualities and have a strong interest in policing work. Scholars will continue on their learning journeys in world-renowned universities which provide intellectually, socially and personally enriching programmes. Upon graduation, scholars will be involved in shaping policies that address issues on public law and order as well as play an integral role in protecting the country and its communities.
This article is brought to you by the Singapore Police Force.