Women have fought crime in S’pore since 1949. Their roles expanded over the years.

They have made history.

By Tanya Ong | November 13, 2017

*Editor’s note: We have updated this article to reflect 1819 as the year of the establishment of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), after receiving feedback from the SPF. 

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) was first established in 1819. But, it was only in 1949 that the SPF welcomed female police officers to join the force.

In 1950, 10 female police trainees became the first women police officers when they signed on as regulars. This was a milestone event because it was the first time females working in the civil service received equal wages as their male counterparts.

Since then, the role of women in the SPF have constantly evolved to accommodate a greater diversity of job scopes.

The first two groups of police women who joined the SPF. Photo via Home Team

Triple Niner Girls and other early postings

When women were first introduced into SPF, the female officers were often restricted to certain tasks, such as message operators. They were known as “Triple Niner Girls” because they manned the 999 emergency hotline.

Photo via SPF’s Facebook.

Additionally, they also worked as crime prevention officers, or in specialised roles where a female presence was required (especially when handling female suspects).

In 1959, P Rajaratnam, then-Deputy Commissioner of Police, introduced the idea of women being traffic control officers.

This idea came from Europe, where he noticed that the female police officers, like their male counterparts, rode on scooters to perform traffic control.

Shifts in attitudes towards gender

Over time, women have gradually taken up positions previously helmed by men. For instance, in 1981, five female officers became the first female Investigation Officers (IOs) in the Land Divisions.

Their tasks included interrogating accused persons, investigating crime scenes, preparing crime reports and making arrests.

Photo by SPF via Home Team

In 2007, the Special Women’s Task Team (SWTT) was formed. It was put together after a stringent selection process and a gruelling training program.

Today, the SWTT is known as an elite team of female officers who have the capabilities to handle civil disobedience and disorderly conduct involving women and children.

On par with men

Despite the traditionally male-dominated landscape of the SPF, women trailblazers have constantly demonstrated that gender should not be an obstacle to attaining certain posts.

From being “Triple Niner Girls,” women in the SPF have taken on diverse roles and attained many achievements over the years.

According to the first female Senior Assistant Commissioner Zuraidah Binte Abdullah, she told Home Team NS:

“Things have changed now. I still believe and hold the principles that you can be deployed anywhere, based on your capabilities. You can be a woman and able to perform duties, then the question is ‘Why not?’ I’ve never put gender as an issue.”


Top photo via Home Team

1819 is a labour of love by Mothership.sg. We tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

About Tanya Ong

Tanya is a keen bean who strives to put the “art” in “articulate”. She also knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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