Mention drug enforcement officer and an image of a burly male officer usually comes to mind.
But Ms Kua Wei Ting, a RP graduate, is doing her best to dispel such a perception – she is among a rare breed of female enforcement officers in the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). As an enforcement officer, she has been involved in drug busts and gone on undercover operations against drug traffickers.
Ms Kua, who has an interest in forensic science since she was young, decided to take up the Home Team Diploma Scholarship in 2016 during her third year in RP. While she could choose to be part of any of the Home Team agencies – such as the Singapore Police Force and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority – Ms Kua chose CNB.
“I chose CNB because we didn’t have to wear uniform and the job scope was interesting to me. I didn’t know what was in store for me but I knew we were going to be dealing with drugs and the behind the scenes,” the 24-year-old said.
Ms Kua also kept her parents in the dark about her decision to join CNB. “When I told my parents that I found a job in the government, I told them it was with the police,” she recalled. “Then they asked, ‘So what will you be doing?’, and I said, ‘Dealing with drugs’,” My parents were so surprised and asked if I could do something else. But I’ve already signed (the contract) so they just needed to come down and sign the papers.”
After six months of training at the Home Team Academy, Ms Kua started her work at CNB in 2017. When she started her role, she remembered that her family was “very worried” due to the unpredictable nature of enforcement work.
“When we are told to stand by (for duty), we’re not sure what time we need to go back to the office and sometimes it can go up till the early hours of the day,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll disappear in the middle of the night so my parents were definitely worried at first, but now they are okay about it.”
The innocent victims in the drug scourge: Children
Ms Kua, who graduated with a Diploma in Biomedical Science in 2016, remembered the first time she was part of a drug bust. “My first experience was surprising because the process was so loud that the whole building was able to hear us trying to break open the door,” she said.
There were also raids that left a lasting memory. “There was one raid we did where we forced open a door and there was a group of people inside the house,” Ms Kua recalled. “We ran in and pinned whoever was there. There were pregnant women apparently.”
As a female enforcement officer, Ms Kua knows that she has to remain calm when dealing with suspects. “Sometimes the accused can be very violent and may struggle against you,” she said. “We have to be calm and steady so that when the accused see us all calm, we can get their attention… If you fumble, things will surely go wrong.”
Beyond the drama involved in some of these drug busts, Ms Kua said the enforcement operations have given her an insight into the drug situation in Singapore and the scourge of drugs.
“After joining the bureau, you can really see how drugs affect the individuals as well as the family,” she said. “Sometimes, the whole family abuses drugs. So then, the most innocent ones are the kids. Really, when the parents are in prison, who will look after the kids?”
‘When people go home, you are going to work’
Ms Kua herself admits that her job isn’t as glorious as it sounds. For one, the nature of her work can be unpredictable. But her boyfriend – who she met at CNB – is understanding.
“We know each other’s job scope,” she said. “Sometimes working in operations can go for longer than 24 hours and you won’t know what time you’ll end. That’s the thing, it’s hard to expect. Office jobs end at 6pm. For our job, once we start, we don’t know what time we’ll end.
“You can really see, when people go home, you’re going to work. So, yes he understands because he was once from enforcement.”
Ms Kua, who is serving her four-year bond, will begin her studies for a Biomedical degree at the PSB Academy in September, 2019. She hopes to continue studying after her bond with CNB ends.
Ms Kua says the most rewarding part of her job is when a drug offender stays clear of drugs. “It’s a fulfilling job and I get to help people. It really makes me feel happy because you can actually see the difference in the accused once they leave (drugs),” she said.
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