It's not about the money, say VSC officers
According to the Auditor-General's Office's annual report, the Singapore Police Force had overpaid its Voluntary Special Constabulary officers by 80 cents an hour for about seven years. Yesterday, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the overpayment was a procedural error. ARYA THAMPURAN (firstname.lastname@example.org) talks to two VSC officers
He was responding to a call about a pub brawl and when he turned up, he saw a drunk man striking another man repeatedly with his belt.
The attack was brutal, and there was blood all over the floor.
Senior Station Inspector (SSI) Johnny Boon, now 55, who had just started out as a Voluntary Special Constabulary (VSC) officer, managed to stop the attacker.
And even though the incident happened about 25 years ago, it has stayed in his mind.
Despite that, he has continued to serve in the VSC for almost 30 years. Even though he is paid a token sum, he's not doing it for the money.
VSC officers are trained to participate in patrols and anti-crime operations, providing much needed backup for regular cops.
A martial arts instructor by day, SSI Boon volunteers over 30 hours a month, doing ground work and instructing Police Defensive Tactics trainers in self-defence.
The VSC was in the news last month after the Auditor-General's Office's (AGO) annual report noted that volunteer police officers were paid bigger allowances than they should have received from April 2008 to December last year.
Since early 2008, the allowance rate for part-time officers under the VSC was raised to $3.60 an hour, 80 cents above the rate stipulated by law.
The issue was discussed in Parliament yesterday. (See report, right.)
SSI Boon, who is attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said: "As volunteers, we don't join for the money... The money doesn't even cover ERP costs (if I drive to work).
"It's all because of the passion and interest."
A father of five children aged between 15 and 25, he recalled the pub incident, which happened in 1992.
SSI Boon said he and his fellow officers ordered the man to stop the assault, but to no avail.
So they hit him with their police batons to get him to comply.
He added: "The victim had a huge gash on his head and there was blood on the floor."
SSI Boon's wife, Madam Irene Kan, 45, was so worried when he joined the VSC that she would wait up till past midnight for him to get home safely.
Despite being 55, which is the typical retirement age for VSC officers, SSI Boon has signed on to volunteer until 2019 and plans to continue volunteering for as long as he can.
His commitment has even inspired his 21-year-old son to join the police force.
Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Mohamad Ariff Said Abdul Kader, 36, has been a VSC officer for six years.
SSgt Ariff, a project manager at Desisti Asia, a company specialising in stage and studio lighting and rigging works, became interested in volunteering after serving his national service in the military police provost unit.
The father of a seven-year-old boy and a five-year-old girlvolunteers at Woodlands West Neighbourhood Police Centre.
While on duty, he said he has helped to settle both family and industrial disputes.
He said: "I'm very close to the foreign workers (at my workplace). So if I get cases relating to (foreign workers), I can understand them better."
He once had to deal with a drunk foreign worker who was sleeping on the street and disturbing passers-by.
SSgt Ariff managed to advise the worker to stop drinking. He said: "I found out he was having problems with his family back home."
Both SSI Boon and SSgt Ariff usually do their volunteer work on the weekends, but SSgt Ariff said he will sometimes be called in for patrol duty during special events like the National Day Parade or F1.
SSgt Ariff added: "Most VSC officers, including myself, did not sign up for the money. This is our little way of contributing to the nation."
Minister: Current pay 'still too low'
Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament yesterday that the overpayment in Voluntary Special Constabulary (VSC) allowance was a procedural error.
This was in response to questions from Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) and Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC).
The officers have been spoken to about their mistake, he added.
The deputy commissioner of police and permanent secretary for home affairs approved the hike despite not being authorised to do so. Instead, approval should have been sought from the minister for home affairs.
Since the decision was made without personal approval from the minister, the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) had classified the money as overpayments, said Mr Shanmugam, who became Home Affairs Minister in September 2015.
He said he agreed with the rationale for the payments, and authorised the hike retrospectively after being advised by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) that he could do so.
Mr Shanmugam said: "The current quantum of $3.60 an hour is in my view still too low." He added that the payment rate is being reviewed to be raised further, and praised volunteer police officers for their hard work and dedication. - The Straits Times.