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  • I-Witness
Published 12 December 2023
3-min Read

Find out more about the PolCam system and how Assistant Watch Officers use it to fight crime!

By: Domnic Dass

a photo of a polcam installed at a HDB block
A PolCam installed at a HDB block. PHOTO: SPF

The Police Operations Command Centre (POCC) serves a vital function within the Singapore Police Force (SPF), supporting its round-the-clock frontline operations. One of the key factors driving the POCC’s effectiveness in terms of real-time incident management and situational awareness is the Police Camera (PolCam) system. 

Since PolCam was launched in April 2012, the system has helped to solve over 7,500 crime cases, making our neighbourhoods safer. 

Over 90,000 PolCams have been installed across the island in public areas since its launch. The system has also improved POCC's real-time incident management capabilities and situational awareness.

The SPF plans to expand PolCam coverage and aims to deploy over 200,000 cameras by mid-2030s to better cover new housing areas and residential estates. 

The Unsung Heroes 
Among the unsung guardians at the POCC are Full-time Police National Service officers. Serving as Assistant Watch Officers (AWOs), these dedicated individuals act as the eyes and ears of the SPF.

a full time police national service officer sitting inside POCC, facing a computer that is not visible to the viewer
SC/Sgt Abdul Raafiq is a senior AWO who joined the POCC in January 2022. That year, he received the Commissioner of Police’s Team Commendation Award for assisting to solve a case of robbery. PHOTO: Soh Ying Jie

The primary responsibility of an AWO is to monitor real-time and recorded footage on the PolCam system. “We use PolCam to conduct ‘virtual patrolling' by trawling through live footage to search for any suspicious activities, persons or commotion,” explained Special Constable Sergeant (SC/Sgt) Abdul Raafiq. “If we spot something concerning, we’ll alert our Watch Officers to dispatch officers to the location.”

Besides monitoring PolCam footage, AWOs have other responsibilities. “We also take calls on the Police Hotline (1800-255-0000) and assist in creating reports from 995 calls to the Singapore Civil Defence Force where Police assistance is required, such as in cases of traffic accidents,” said SC/Sgt Raafiq.

the PNSF sitting in POCC facing a big wall with multiple screens for POCC incident monitoring
A comprehensive training programme ensures that AWOs are well-equipped to handle the demands of their role. As a senior AWO, SC/Sgt Raafiq is keen to share his knowledge with new AWOs. PHOTO: Soh Ying Jie

From Classroom to Command Centre
AWOs undergo a rigorous training programme that covers both foundational lessons and hands-on sessions. “We start with several weeks of theory lessons and training conducted by our Training Officer,” explained SC/Sgt Raafiq. “This deep dive covers the PolCam system, its capabilities and all relevant Police procedures.”

After their foundational training, AWOs undergo a week of intensive field training with a senior AWO. This hands-on experience enables the application of theoretical knowledge to real situations under expert guidance. Once this training is complete, AWOs work independently while receiving support, guidance and mentorship from senior colleagues.

different angle of PNSF using computer
SC/Cpl Bryan Lam joined the POCC in April 2022. He received the POCC Commander’s Team Commendation Award for helping to identify and track a suspect in an outrage of modesty case. PHOTO: Soh Ying Jie

Leveraging Technology to Enhance the POCC’s Capabilities 
In addition to monitoring the PolCam system, AWOs also harness video analytics to support Police operations. “This helps to expedite the search for missing persons or suspects,” explained Special Constable Corporal (SC/Cpl) Bryan Lam. 

It takes a keen eye for AWOs to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies and crime. “Serving as an AWO in the POCC has been an eye-opening and fulfilling National Service experience,” said SC/Cpl Bryan. “By tapping on the PolCam system, we can better support our officers on the ground and better contribute to the safety of the community.”

two pnsfs standing infront of a wall that reads Police Operations Command Centre, and posing with their hands locked infront of them,
As senior AWOs, SC/Cpl Bryan and SC/Sgt Raafiq are glad to play their part at the POCC. PHOTO: Soh Ying Jie

Asked about the unique aspects of being an AWO, SC/Sgt Raafiq said, “We work in a high-tempo environment 24/7 to ensure the safety and security of Singapore. This has helped me to develop my patience, attention to detail and mental resilience. Most importantly, witnessing the impact of our work has instilled in me a deep sense of purpose!”

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