14 June 2017

The Art of Learning

featured1  His greying silvery locks echo his bountiful life experiences; a true reflection of tenacity, sophistication and confidence that grew with time.  Well-versed in investigative operations, policy and infrastructure planning, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SAC) Soh Kee Hean has spent more than 30 years of his career shuffling between the Police Force, its parent Ministry, Home Team departments and other public agencies. Currently helming the Home Team School of Criminal Investigation (HTSCI), the Police veteran who speaks with an unusual degree of candour is clearly not a man who is interested to be placed on the pedestal. Though he did not start out with any life-long ambition to be a uniformed officer, it is the sense of job satisfaction that eventually convinced SAC Soh that he made a right decision in accepting the Police Overseas Scholarship.

The Training Cycle

At its core, HTSCI provides specialised training for Investigation and Forensic officers to ensure that they are skilled and competent to face current and future challenges in criminal investigation work. To ensure that course objectives are met through the effective execution of training, SAC Soh is adamant that all the processes outlined within the training cycle are intertwined and must be duly conducted. 

As the saying goes, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. The training cycle helps to streamline planning for an effective training programme that meets the needs of the organisation. It is a recurrent process that begins way before the training programme is conducted and continues even after the training has been completed. The cycle encompasses the identification of learning needs, design and development of curriculum, delivery of training, assessment and feedback on the programme. 

To ensure that learning needs are accurately identified, HTSCI looks beyond the regular forums held with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the learning pointers derived from day-to-day incidents. The school also studies learning needs through a forward looking lens. As part of the Home Team transformation efforts, HTSCI has to steer its training to cater to the needs of a transformed investigation workflow, take for instance designing training to familiarise investigators with the new procedures and processes or orientate training to suit changing priorities.

Training at the Heart of Progress:

Acutely aware of the trap of complacency, with his result-driven orientation, SAC Soh is always in pursuit of improvement. To ensure that HTSCI is able to deliver excellent training standards, SAC Soh constantly works with his trainers and the relevant content owners to update content, devise new learning methods and improvise teaching pedagogies to enhance training delivery.

“Unlike lecture-styled training which tend to be boring, we are now more inclined towards holding   scenario-based/case studies discussion which would better facilitate peer training and learning. As part of the ‘flipped classroom’ concept, trainees are expected to do their pre-course reading and assignments before engaging in higher level discussion in classroom training,” explained SAC Soh.

With new training methodologies put in place, trainers must also be well-prepared to facilitate such discussions during the sessions. “Besides training our trainees, we also need to orientate and prepare our trainers for such pedagogy so that both parties can benefit from the session,” said SAC Soh as he emphasised the need for trainers to be au fait with the modus operandi of crimes, keep abreast of the crime trends and the latest operational procedures.

Training programmes have to be responsive to changes in the operating environment.  Milestone investigation programmes are reviewed to incorporate changes in operational processes.  Given the current operating environment, courses are also tailored to equip officers with the necessary knowledge and skills required to respond to the new complexities of cybercrimes, financial related crimes and acts of terror.

Embracing Technology

Given the prevalence of technology in today’s policing context, it is impossible to extricate the use of technology from the realm of training. SAC Soh who double hats as the Senior Director of Technology Development in the Home Team Academy, revealed a few initiatives that taps on technology as a means to enhance training delivery.

Developed together with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Office of the Chief Science & Technology Officer, HTSCI uses Virtual Reality (VR) to simulate death cases to better train Police officers on the various techniques and protocols involve in handling such a scenario.  There are plans for more training scenarios such as rioting to be customised to broaden the scope of learning not just for Police officers but for the other Home Team departments as well.

Similar to the objectives of VR, HTSCI is also exploring the use of gaming technology to walk officers through the lifespan of a ‘typical investigation case cycle’. Interactive and engaging, this ‘gaming module’ is poised to give officers a better understanding and familiarity with the procedures and protocols involved instead of reading it off a book.

Besides the use of cutting-edge technology, HTSCI is looking towards creating mobility in training and learning outcomes.  “Training and learning can also be mobile” said SAC Soh as a matter-of-factly.  In particular, a mobile application is in the works to provide investigators with job aids and enable learning on the go.

While technology paths the way for mobile learning, it also promotes collaborative learning in the classroom. Following the subsequent phasing out of paper flip charts, the use of virtual classroom technology will make room for group discussion, big group presentation and allow the electronic sharing of materials between trainer and trainees. Through such interaction which facilitates knowledge creation, officers will be better poised to embark on an active learning journey.

Bringing People Together

Learning is a never-ending process. As much as how HTSCI helps to train and enhance officers’ capabilities, it is also a platform that brings Home Team officers together to share and exchange expertise on crime-fighting. Through active participation in discussions, officers will be able to evaluate their learning as they exchange feedback and be better prepared to tackle the challenges faced.

 As the interview came to a close, the father of two once again urged officers that “Stagnation is the greatest pitfall. Never be complacent, even if we had been successful. Always be on a lookout for potential improvement in whatever we do”. It is such staunch conviction that SAC Soh strives on to remind officers of the value of training.

By: Denise Luo (Photographer: Chee Yong Tat)

Last Updated on 14 September 2017