FEATURES

07 March 2019

Women Power: She Inspires

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By: Denise Luo

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A strong woman, to me, possesses confidence and humility. She relishes challenges and carries out her duties with conviction. This woman who dares to dream and make mistakes, is always at ease with herself, regardless of the situation. I am thrilled to be able to speak to one such woman who has shown great mettle and wits as she outdid herself in a male-dominated field. Being the first female to hold the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) is an awe-inspiring accomplishment. While one would expect a stern taskmaster, I am charmed by her disarmingly candid and unassuming disposition which shone through as we spoke. In our 80-minute long conversation which was occasionally punctuated by her warm and infectious laughter, DCP Florence Chua opened up on her work experience and perspective on women in policing. It is clear how DCP Chua who currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation & Intelligence) concurrent Director of Criminal Investigation Department loves her daily grind, even after being in the Force for close to three decades. Unfazed by hard work and long hours, the former national hockey gold medallist is nothing but heartfelt from the moment we met. She’s inspiring and she’s unstoppable.

Women Empowerment

To many female police officers, DCP Chua is the epitome of women empowerment in today’s context. She has broken perceived norms and conventions in a uniformed organisation that has been traditionally dominated by men. In recognition of her outstanding achievement, DCP Chua is one of the eight women who will be officially inducted into the Singapore’s Women Hall of Fame come 23 March 2019. 

Despite her wealth of experience in police work, it is apparent how DCP Chua is not one who is interested in being placed on a pedestal. She is often quick to give recognition to her predecessors who were pioneers in other fields. “There was Assistant Commissioner of Police (AC) Ng Guat Ting – she was the first female commander. Then, we had Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SAC) Zuraidah Binte Abdullah who was Commander of Jurong Division and also the Training Command. And not forgetting AC Jessica Kwok who served as the Commander of Ang Mo Kio Division,” DCP Chua said matter-of-factly.

To DCP Chua, gender is never a limiting factor in the SPF. She strongly emphasised that it is the individual’s ability that really matters. “Regardless of your gender, all police officers undergo the same training and draw the same arms. The same resilience is expected of all officers. If male officers are expected to carry a 10 kg load, female officers will lug that weight as well. The requirements are all the same. All of us do Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). The only plausible difference lies in the scoring of IPPT standards,” DCP Chua said firmly.

Truth be told, female officers are climbing the ranks and taking up positions in almost every aspect of policing. While this would not have been imaginable in the early days, it has become increasingly common in recent times. Female officers are fielded in Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) to respond to terror incidents, notwithstanding the fact that some of them are even serving as team leaders. Even in specialist units such as the Police Coast Guard, female officers are deployed alongside their male counterparts in the elite Special Task Squadron. “This is testament to the limitless opportunities for female officers in the SPF,” DCP Chua affirmed.

Whilst opportunities are aplenty and many female officers have gradually assumed leadership positions, DCP Chua reckoned that it remains a challenge to have female leaders in every area as they form the minority in the Force. “Given the current ratio of male to female officers, it is difficult to have females leading in every area. By the time you spread them out, it is too thin,” DCP Chua explained squarely.

“It is also a matter of time, space and opportunity. There needs to be a vacancy before any movement. It is never because you are a female and therefore not competent or suitable. It would also not feel good if you are placed in a leadership position just because you are a female and need to make up the numbers,” DCP Chua said in allusion to female representation in management roles.

Ultimately, DCP Chua strongly believes that it is one’s personality and character that come through more than his or her gender. Being a male or female does not hinder your career in the SPF. Interestingly, she observes that it takes a certain type of female to join a uniformed organisation. “They tend to be confident of themselves, know what they want and are not afraid of challenges,” she said.

Investigation an Inexorable Passion 

Being able to continue doing work that challenges her every day, keeps DCP Chua going. Since joining the Force in 1989, her penchant for investigative work has never diminished. Having served five stints at CID – Senior Investigation Officer Anti-Vice Enforcement Unit, Deputy Head Secret Societies Branch, Assistant Director (AD) Investigation Support and Services, AD Operations and Training and a most memorable stint as Deputy Director (DD) from 2012 to 2015 – DCP Chua feels honoured to return to the CID to lead its operations. It is no surprise why DD CID remains her most memorable posting to date. “Back then, Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck was our director. It was an exciting albeit challenging period as many high-profile cases took place then. There was the SMRT strike, Kovan double murder, the Messiah hacking case, Little India riot, Sheng Siong kidnapping case, just to name a few,” DCP Chua said as she recalled the rigours of investigation. “Investigation is tough work. It is a team effort… your weakness may be my strength. We should always complement one another and work as a team,” she continued.

Shedding more light on the fundamentals of investigation, the veteran police officer who has had an illustrious sporting achievement expounded the parallels between sports and policing. According to the former national hockey captain who has played in six Southeast Asian Games and three Asian Games, it is always important to have the presence of mind and be able to think on one’s feet. “From my hockey experience, we learnt to constantly anticipate challenges and think how to outplay our opponents. It is crucial to make quick decisions and give clear instructions to my fellow teammates. Likewise, in policing, we need to think of different strategies and tactics, be creative and improvise quickly… outwit these bad guys,” DCP Chua quipped.

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From leading investigations to overseeing intelligence operations, DCP Chua has done it all. As former Director of Police Intelligence Department (PID), DCP Chua has not only integrated intelligence capabilities with frontline investigation but has also proven herself when she took the lead in several high-profile operations to dismantle organised crime groups and syndicates. Under her leadership in PID, DCP Chua also successfully cracked down the largest illegal remote gambling syndicate which then became the first case to be prosecuted under the Organised Crime Act.

Now, as she approaches her tenth month as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation and Intelligence) and Director CID, DCP Chua remains cautious about the trap of complacency and is aware of the need for continuous capability development. As the SPF continues to transform itself vis-à-vis technology, officers need to transform too. “Even if our officers are not tech-savvy, they must be open to changing the way we operate. Be adaptable and flexible,” enthused DCP Chua who also highlighted the importance of doing more with less and at a faster pace.

When asked about the future of investigation and intelligence practices, she shared, “We are going paperless with CRIMES 3 – a new investigation management system. With this, we will increase productivity, do better sense-making with analytics and improve communications with stakeholders such as the courts,” she revealed. 

Inspiring the Young

An alumna of CHIJ St. Theresa’s Convent, DCP Chua stands guided by her school’s motto –Simple in Virtue, Steadfast in Duty. Albeit constantly pushing limits, DCP Chua is mindful of her boundaries and has no qualms about taking accountability. As the eldest of four sisters, DCP Chua has always been confident and comfortable in taking the lead. Focussed and singular in her mission, DCP Chua is not one who sits on the sidelines. She leads by example and cares genuinely for her men. “If officers have to work long hours, I will pull the hours with them. I want to be in action with them, not sit around,” she exclaimed.

Reflecting on her journey in the SPF, DCP Chua reminded officers to find the purpose and meaning in their work. “When you find yourself looking forward to go to work every day, then that is the job for you. If you wake up and do not feel like going to work, then maybe it is time to leave,” she shared. 

Finally, DCP Chua hopes to inspire more young officers with her mantra at work. "As new officers, you must always be prepared to learn from your seniors. You must be humble enough to learn from officers who may be junior in ranks to you but have more experience than you. It is all about the right attitude and aptitude."
Last Updated on 07 March 2019