Leading the Specialised Security Command
As a National Police Cadet Corp in his secondary school days, Assistant Commissioner of Police (AC) Lim Chee Pheng felt that his decision to join the Singapore Police Force (SPF) after graduating from the National University of Singapore was a natural choice. Appointed Commander Security Command (SecCom) in 2010, AC Lim shared more about the duties and challenges faced by the officers of SecCom in an ever changing security environment.
With 26 years of experience under his belt, AC Lim has held numerous key appointments before being appointed Commander SecCom, including Deputy Commander (Special Duties) of the Special Operations Command, and his most memorable posting as Aide-De-Camp to President Ong Teng Cheong. AC Lim recounted that it was an enriching experience, learning about protocol and decorum, coordinating State events and visits to foreign countries where the President was in attendance. He even had the opportunity to play a round of golf at the Istana 9-hole course with President Ong before breakfast! “It was a great honour to have served the first Elected President of Singapore,” he shared.
Well-equipped with a strong set of both ‘hard’ operational as well as ‘soft’ interpersonal skills, he has successfully led the SecCom for six years now. “It has been a good and enriching experience leading a Specialist Unit with officers who are highly trained and competent in specialised skills, and are very committed and dedicated to their roles as Personal Security Officers (PSOs)” he said.
AC Lim’s vision for the SecCom is to be the Centre of Excellence in Very Important Person (VIP) Protection. As part of that vision, one of the on - going key plans includes the restructuring of the division. This would ensure that the division would have sufficient capacity to meet any possible surge in demand for close protection in the future, as well as to enhance the close protection of protectees in the event of multiple lone-wolf terrorist attacks that could happen in Singapore.
A key plan is to use the facilities at the Home Team Tactical Centre (HTTC) to conduct scenario-based training and exercises for PSOs, allowing officers to validate the various contingency plans and uplift the capabilities of PSOs to enable them to deal with contingencies effectively and efficiently. The SecCom is also collaborating with the SPF Future Ops Division and Office of the Chief Science & Technology Officer (OCSTO) to develop counter-drone capabilities for the Istana Security Unit.
One of the key challenges SecCom faces is as AC Lim puts it, “how to prevent PSOs from becoming complacent as they go about their daily work routine, as there has never been any attack on our protectees thus far.” To counter this, some of the activities conducted to keep PSOs vigilant include regular trainings which are constantly tweaked to prevent repetition and to sustain effectiveness, as well as sharing and conducting reviews on incidents of attack on VIPs that have occurred in other countries.
A second challenge is to allocate a common interval for training. Due to the nature of shift work in the various units within the SecCom as well as the heavy workload of PSOs, efforts have been made to fine-tune the shift system, allowing units to pre-empt the training day of their respective PSOs to enable them to attend training activities.
Overcoming jet lag during overseas deployment is another challenge for PSOs. To prevent the vigilance and alertness of the PSOs from being compromised, an advance PSO now travels at least one day in advance to the foreign country of their assignment. With this adjustment, the advance PSO on overseas assignment is now able to liaise with our Mission in that country and with the local police on security arrangement and yet, have sufficient rest before the arrival of the protectee. “The PSO would be fresh and alert when our protectee arrives and he would take over the escorting duty from the PSO who had travelled with our protectee,” AC Lim explained.
Self-Motivated, Hard Work and Communication
When asked about how PSOs are able to constantly appear as smartly dressed officers looking cool and professional beside a Minister or foreign dignitary, AC Lim was quick to dispel any myths about them. “PSOs are human and they need to have sufficient rest to have a fresh mind and to maintain a high level of alertness and vigilance when on duty…Behind that look is actually a lot of hard work and effort invested in training. SecCom’s training motto has always been – Train hard to fight easy.”
Indeed, it is not easy to become a SecCom PSO. Besides a high level of physical and medical fitness, the aptitude and attitude of potential officers are assessed stringently during selection. However, none of these matter if officers are not motivated.
To help maintain that motivation, work processes in the SecCom are regularly reviewed to enhance the operational effectiveness of officers. Regular dialogue sessions and organisation of welfare events, such as family outings and inviting officers’ family to attend festive celebrations together with the PSOs are also held. AC Lim also maintains an open-door policy where any officers could walk into his office whenever they wished to speak with him on work or personal matters.
Ultimately, true to his vision of the SecCom, AC Lim believes that PSOs require self-motivation. “An outstanding SecCom Officer is one who is competent in all the close protection skills, is motivated, disciplined, displays high level of commitment and dedication and most importantly places the interest of his protectee above self.”