Published on 31 Mar 2023

Registrar By Day, Police Volunteer By Night

The passion for serving communities takes on a surprising twist for this NIE alumnus, who helps out as a Volunteer Special Constable (Community) with the Singapore Police Force (SPF). NIEWS learns more about Associate Professor Lim Kam Ming (Class of 1999) in this exclusive interview.


Associate Professor Lim Kam Ming’s official title may be the Registrar and Deputy Divisional Director of NIE’s Office of Academic Administration and Services (OAAS). However, he sees himself as a student services professional, leading an award-winning team to improve academic administration and facilitate student success at NIE.

“I want to make a difference,” he said, explaining the passion towards his duties at OAAS, and in his lesser-known appointment as a Volunteer Special Constable (VSC) (Community). “I enrolled as a VSC (Community) officer in November 2018. The application and selection process involved several rounds of assessments, interviews and a medical screening. And obviously, I needed to learn about things like police procedures, legal knowledge, defence tactics and first aid. The physical training was demanding, but manageable with the encouragement from my instructors and fellow trainees. After an intensive nine weeks of training, I was deployed at a Neighbourhood Police Centre at Jurong Police Division.”

It struck us that Associate Professor Lim must have been a highly proficient VSC (Community) officer, given the impressive accolades he garnered over the last four years. These included the Singapore Police Force (SPF)’s Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2022; VSC (Community) High Performance Award in 2021 and 2020; VSC (Community) Outstanding Performance Award in 2019; and the Singapore Police Bicentennial 2020 Medal. “Just as volunteer Police officers are vested with the same powers as the regular Police officers while we are on official duty, we are eligible for the same awards and medals,” he added modestly.

Admitting that being a VSC (Community) officer was a unique way to channel one’s service passion, Associate Professor Lim said: “Everyone has a role to play in ensuring Singapore’s stability, security, safety and strong social cohesion and harmony. And there are many ways to contribute. Some people volunteer with social service agencies, while others help to promote and support the arts or protect the environment. I also know of colleagues who enjoy helping with education-related services.

“But I chose to volunteer with SPF to help prevent, deter and detect crime. Besides, being a Police officer was my childhood dream. Hence, this is an especially meaningful experience to me, plus I get to work alongside regular Police officers and fellow VSC (Community) officers to safeguard Singapore.”

Not surprisingly, VSC (Community) officers are required to conduct patrols and perform crowd-control duties at occasions like Istana events, National Day Parades and New Year Eve Countdowns. The duration of each shift depends on the type of deployment, with duties stretching up to 12 hours for major events. Associate Professor Lim’s responsibilities also include giving talks on crime prevention at community roadshows, training new SPF volunteers about SGSecure (or Singapore’s community response to terror threats), and recruiting more volunteers as a VSC Career Advisor.

“When I’m on duty, I would have to wear a Police uniform of course. I also carry a pair of handcuffs, a baton, communication set and my police warrant card,” he revealed. “I’ve been deployed at many events, big and small, all of them requiring loads of coordinated teamwork. And so, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the level of detailed planning that is done on a daily basis by our men and women in blue.”

To Associate Professor Lim, the toughest part about being a VSC (Community) officer has nothing to do with the physical or mental demands. “Clear communication is critical for policing work but having to converse with members of the public in Mandarin while on duty — that’s my Achilles heel. I’m much more fluent in Malay language, or in dialects like Cantonese and Hokkien!” he confessed.

“Operationally, there’s also the need to keep up with training, update our skills and knowledge, possess good situational awareness, and be able to react calmly and decisively. Empathy and ability to relate with others are also critical for public engagement and incident management,” he continued, adding that all of the attributes have been relevant to his role as NIE Registrar.

Obliging our request to conclude the interview with an interesting story, Associate Professor Lim shared: “One of the more interesting incidents that occurred during my patrols was when my fellow volunteer Police officers and I extinguished a fire in a rubbish dumpster. The fire was quite large, having spread across the entire rubbish dumpster. We managed to extinguish the fire before firefighters arrived at the incident!”

This article was originally published in NIEWS #123.

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