Left: Ng Zhi Hao, Officer-in-Charge of Training Transformation, Training Unit, Operations Division, Central Narcotics Bureau, is a Mid-Term Local Merit Scholar with a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical Engineering) from NUS.
Right: Local Merit Scholar Stephen Lim has a Bachelor of Business Administration from NUS. He is a Senior Investigation Officer, Major Investigation at the Investigation Division in Central Narcotics Bureau, currently on secondment at MOH.
"You don't see us patrolling along the streets, or officers wearing the uniform standing on stakeout," said Ng Zhi Hao, Officer-in-Charge (OC) Training Transformation in the Operations Division of Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). "In fact, people often wonder ‘Does Singapore really have a drug situation?' or ‘Is it really that bad?'"
But the Local Merit Scholar is far from disappointed with the lack of recognition.
"It's proof that Singapore's drug laws and our multi-pronged approach against drugs have been effective."
CNB may be one of the smaller agencies in the Home Team, but its effectiveness is exemplified through its achievements. Thanks to dedicated officers, a forward-looking mindset that leverages technology, and constantly transforming enforcement, education and engagement efforts, Singapore has stayed relatively drug-free.
That, however, is not good enough for CNB and its officers. They strive for a society where no family will have to suffer the pain and despair of drug abuse.
At CNB, Zhi Hao and Stephen, Senior Investigation Officer in the Investigation Division, are proud to be on the frontlines fighting against drugs, keeping Singapore safe.
Signing up for the War Against Drugs
Speaking of unsung heroes and unseen achievements, the less visible nature of CNB is what drew Stephen to the organisation in the first place.
He came to learn more about CNB while preparing for his scholarship application, and its specialised, behind-the-scenes work fascinated him. "The work may not seem as glamourous as that of other departments, but someone has to keep the streets of Singapore clean from drugs," he emphasised.
The interviewers picked up on his interest in law enforcement which shone through during the scholarship interview, and organised a day-long job shadowing opportunity for him.
Zhi Hao, too, recalled how speaking to the officers and seeing their commitment when they went about completing their tasks convinced him of the meaningful purpose in CNB's work.
He was in his second year at NUS when he realised that he wanted something with more meaning. "I started searching for public service scholarships," he said.
"Then, CNB stood out as a place where I could play a meaningful role to ensure the safety and security of Singaporeans."
The Undergraduate Experience
While his Degree in Engineering might not be directly related to CNB's work, Zhi Hao took an active role to engage in study programmes that could help him better understand CNB and the drug problem in Singapore.
He enrolled himself in a once-in-a-lifetime summer attachment to Linköping University in Sweden, where he learnt about the science of addiction. "It gave me a deeper understanding of how an abuser gets addicted, which has greatly helped me appreciate the amount of effort CNB has to put in to help abusers get out of this addiction cycle," he said.
Stephen also took on university modules which could sharpen his skillsets to prepare him for a career in CNB. He received a thorough grounding in data and statistical analysis which would later be put to good use when drafting policies and operationalising manpower directives.
Also, CNB's vacation internships gave him early exposure to the job environment. "I went back to CNB for an attachment programme every year after I accepted the scholarship till when I started work. These attachments enabled me to be exposed early to groundwork and have a head start on understanding not just the way CNB operates but also the Bureau's culture," he told us proudly.
Early Days of a CNB Career
CNB continued to develop Zhi Hao and Stephen's skills and knowledge when they entered the organisation upon graduation, through exposure to the 3E's in CNB's mission – Enforcement, Education and Engagement.
The two officers started their careers with foundation postings, spending a year in the Enforcement division, followed by a year in the Investigation Division. They also had opportunities to engage with drug supervisees to set them on the right path, as well as conduct preventive education talks at schools.
"This gives new officers a good opportunity to understand the ground first-hand and learn the challenges faced, so that when they move to more macro-level roles in planning or management, they are in a better position to ensure that polices and plans can meet their intended outcomes," Zhi Hao explained.
Having completed his foundation postings, he is now in a leadership role as Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Training Transformation in Training Unit, working in tandem with the other Home Team Departments to bridge competency gaps and develop a workforce that has the right skills and capabilities and is future-ready. Projects include the development of simulation training scenarios in the Home Team Simulation System (HTS2) at the Home Team Academy, where officers can immerse themselves in interactive role-play scenarios. CNB-related training scenarios were also developed in order to better prepare CNB officers for the myriad of possible situations which they may encounter during operational work.
He is also part of the CNB Emergency Management Committee (EMC) which manages COVID-19 related matters in CNB. The EMC ensures that the safe management measures implemented in CNB are aligned to the national guidelines. With Zhi Hao's contribution, he ensures that officers' safety needs are taken care of while at the same time making sure that CNB's operational needs are met.
"We are a small organisation, so we multi-task a lot," he laughed. "We get a lot of exposure beyond our core work, and this translates to many learning opportunities for officers in areas outside law enforcement like management of technology or capability-building projects, organisational transformation, and more."
From Micro to Macro
Stephen enjoyed similar opportunities in CNB. He was involved in several inter-divisional committees, including the organisation of CNB's Workplan Seminar and the Minister's Awards Presentation Ceremony. These exposed him to the wider spectrum of policy and strategic planning aside from casework on the ground.
"In this way, you get a more macro perspective as you progress through your career," he explained.
"You feel a sense of progression, and you gain more insight into the broader impact of your work when you interact with different agencies like MSF, SPF, ICA and others. The value proposition of CNB is unique in that we can create positive impact at the upstream in our preventive education efforts, and we also carry out enforcement against drug offenders. We do not exist in a vacuum but need to work closely with many agencies with a common mission to serve the public."
Today, he has gone even further afield and is currently seconded to the Ministry of Health to help with the fight against COVID-19.
At MOH, "I handle strategic policies and planning for various aspects of the national vaccination programme. I was also given the opportunity to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the Home Recovery Programme when it rolled out," he outlined. His abilities in strategic planning have the opportunity to shine here as well.
"I look forward to bringing these skills back to CNB," said Stephen, describing the experience as "interesting and meaningful".
Opportunities in CNB
It is clear that a meaningful purpose, exciting job scope and the chance to serve the community awaits officers at CNB.
Having found the place where they make a difference, Zhi Hao and Stephen are eager to welcome others to the fold.
"The mission itself will keep you going," smiled Zhi Hao. "And alongside that, you will be continually upgraded and challenged – CNB will see to that."
Stephen was equally enthusiastic: "It's the chance to participate in a cause bigger than yourself. And with all the career paths available, you never know where you'll go. So just take the plunge like me and join!"