SINGAPORE: The Home Team Academy, the corporate university of the Home Team, is set to bring a tech boost to training its officers, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo on Wednesday (May 15).
This is to ensure they can face challenges such as terrorism threats, evolving crimes and the weight of public perception.
"Merely increasing manpower or 'womenpower' is neither sustainable, nor effective," said Mrs Teo on Wednesday during a speech at the Home Team Academy Workplan Seminar.
“Instead, as with other sectors, we need to change the way we operate in the Home Team - we need to use technology to a greater extent, streamline and even overhaul our processes and concepts of operation."
TECHNOLOGY BOOST FOR TRAINING PROGRAMMES
One example of using technology was showcased during a demonstration by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in which participants experienced the simulated aftermath of a bomb attack by donning special goggles.
Using mixed-reality technology, SCDF officers could be trained by treating virtual casualties that appear against a real background.
Such technology will feature in SCDF's new training centre that is expected to open in 2021. The National Emergency Medical Services Training Centre will take in local and international participants, who will also learn through playing video games with medical simulation.
SCDF will also set up a lab to track the training performance of emergency responders better. The Emergency Responders' Fitness Conditioning and Enhancement Lab (ExCEL) will cover both physical and behavioural areas.
It will monitor responders’ strength and conduct rehabilitation in an immersive setting. Moreover, there will be environmental chambers to test how they fare in extreme conditions and a cognitive lab to help test and improve their situational awareness and decision-making.
One key feature in the cognitive lab will be the Eye Tracking System that relies on sensors to determine eye movement.
An SCDF instructing officer, Major Hasan Kuddoos, said: "When trainees are shown operational footage of real life incidents, we are able to determine where their eye focus goes to. So, with these, we envision for them to enhance their situational awareness."
Major Hasan added that this means trainers can observe how experienced personnel react in situations and learn from them to make their lessons more effective.
For instance, trainees who are more senior tend to zoom in on casualties or exits during a fire, while the less experienced are seen to focus on the blaze first.
Additionally, SCDF is studying data on heat stress, collected from their own officers, to improve training linked to heat endurance.
Meanwhile the Prison Services has developed a virtual reality training prototype for new Prisons officers, which teaches them how to navigate situations such as fights in the yard and medical emergencies.
Assistant Superintendent of Prisons Teng Song Guan said that officers who tried out the prototype felt it was realistic and allowed them to be immersed in the situation. A further trial will be conducted later this year.
The Home Team School of Criminal Investigation is also exploring new technology like artificial intelligence.
At this year's Workplan, it featured a pair of smart glasses which rely on augmented reality and are voice activated.
Aside from new initiatives, the Academy built on its current simulation system that trains officers to manage different incidents. It has added two new terrains to the current four areas.
While the simulation was previously only open to training for the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the SCDF, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Prisons officers can now learn how to navigate situations at the Woodlands checkpoint and in prison respectively.
CHANGING NATURE OF HOME TEAM JOBS
All this training in technology was necessary due to the evolving nature of Home Team jobs, according to Mrs Teo.
She touched on the ICA's plans to roll out more self-service counters, stating that officers' roles "will shift from stamping passports to performing analytics of traveller information" so as to sieve out suspicious travellers.
ICA has also designed an eight-week Basic Digital Confidence Course with Singapore Polytechnic. Its first batch of officers graduated last October.
On a wider scale, the Academy aims to equip all 25,000 Home Team officers with basic technology skills by 2021.
It is also working with Singapore University of Social Sciences to accredit the Academy's basic training programmes
Next January, officers who obtain a Certificate in Home Team Studies will earn credit units if they are pursuing an undergraduate degree there.
In addition to its local programmes, the academy has gone international.
It's rolled out two new flagship programmes - the International Programme on Crisis Leadership last year, and the Phoenix International Programme early this year. Senior officials from foreign countries were able to exchange insights about security threats and challenges during these programmes.