Jagjit Singh: Singapore police director with eyes, ears firmly on the ground

Perak-born was involved in responding to Singapore Airlines flight SQ117 hijacking in 1991. He retires in 2000 as Deputy Commissioner (Operations) of Singapore Police Force


| Singapore | 13 Mar 2017 | Asia Samachar |

From the outset, he was attracted to the complex world of law enforcement and criminal investigation. Therefore, it came as little surprise when Mr Jagjit Singh decided to join the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in 1967 as an Assistant Superintendent of Police. He rose rapidly through the ranks and held such posts as Director (Planning), Commander Areas, Director of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Deputy Commissioner (Operations) before retiring in 2000. He is the only Sikh officer to have held these posts and was the second most senior Sikh officer in the Force, second only to the Commissioner of Police.

Jagjit was born in 1940 in the town of Batu Gajah in Perak in Malaysia, where he received his early primary education. After his family moved to Singapore in 1952, Jagjit continued his education at Outram Primary School. He then joined Raffles Institution where he completed his GCE ‘O’ and GCE ‘A’ Levels, emerging as the top GCE ‘A’ Level student in the Arts stream in 1959. The bright young man, who devoured readings beyond the prescribed curriculum during his GCE ‘A’ Level years, graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from the  University of Singapore. Upon graduation, his family and friends encouraged him to pursue a career practicing law. However, he followed his heart and instead joined the SPF.

Jagjit elaborated: “The job was extremely taxing and the pressures to deliver quick and good results were intense. The hours of work were long, stretching into several days in the office with little rest on many occasions.”  These included the communal riots in May 1969 when Jagjit was with the Internal Security Department. As Director of CID, he handled high profile murders, kidnappings and firearm robberies that demanded fast results. He also led investigations into the Hotel New World collapse in 1986. He made many personal sacrifices throughout his years of service because of his single-minded determination to deliver in his various roles and capacities during his years in the SPF.

As Director CID from early 1984 to late 1987, Jagjit was in charge of policies pertaining to criminal and crime investigations. He supervised and directed the CID’s specialist units dealing with major crime, organised crime, secret societies, gambling, commercial crime and criminal intelligence. Crime at that time was relatively high, with Singapore witnessing around 70 murders per year. Yet, the CID was able to maintain a clearance rate of 80 percent, which was high by international standards.

To produce the best results, Jagjit was unflinching in his resolve and, in doing so, place tremendous pressure on himself. He stated that, “I made it a point to personally go to the scene of every murder and firearm robbery case, regardless of whether the case occurred during the day or night. I wanted to know the facts first hand so that I could better direct my officers during the fortnightly meetings to review the progress of major cases.” Out of such back-breaking effort came enormous rewards that not only included effective national crime control but also a strong bond and team spirit among his officers.


In the area of gambling, several major problems in the mid-1980s were brought under control through the operations of the CID, helmed by Jagjit. One such operation was against the Mini Turf Clubs (MTCs). The MTCs were operated by illegal bookies mainly at the void decks of Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks during weekends when horse races were in progress. They operated at more than 400 locations and were attended by large crowds of punters. Their presence irked the residents and prompted public complaints to the government. The first step taken by the SPF was to make illegal betting laws more stringent so that the police could deal more effectively with the MTCs. Then, as Director CID, Jagjit planned an eight-weekend police operation involving the CID and other police units to crack down on the MTCs. At the end of the operation, the MTCs practically disappeared. Jagjit was also instrumental in another six-week operation to clear the Singapore Turf Club (STC)  of illegal activities by bookies and their runners who were arrested or chose to cease operations at the Club. The results were remarkable – the quantum of legal betting at the STC, which stood at S$6 million per race day prior to the operation, increased threefold after the operation.

Whilst Deputy Commissioner (Operations), Jagjit shouldered additional important responsibilities as the Head of the Command and Control Group (CCG) in a wide range of operation plans dealing with sensitive security operations such as aircraft hijacking. As Head of the CCG, he worked directly under the Executive Group made up largely of Permanent Secretaries. The Executive Group made the policy decisions while the CCG translated these decisions into action. In the Singapore Airlines flight SQ117 hijacking in 1991, Jagjit was in command of operations from the outset until the culmination of the incident when the Executive Group decided on storming into the plane. Through a coded message, Jagjit then conveyed the storming in instructions to his ground commander who immediately activated the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) commandos. The operation was highly successful – the four terrorists were killed and there were no other fatalities among the passengers and crew of the flight.

As Deputy Commissioner (Operations), Jagjit also had command and control responsibilities in a number of other major and security sensitive events such as the National Day parades and the General Elections. He also chaired the Airport Bomb Warning Committee and was in control of air crash operations.

For some 10 years, Jagjit was also the Co-Chairman of the Explosives Safety Committee of Singapore. His Co-Chairman was the then-Chief Defence Scientist, Professor Lui Pao Chuen.


Over the years, Jagjit represented the SPF at multiple international forums as well. These included the annual Interpol General Assembly meetings in Nice, Lyon and Rome, and the Interpol Asia Regional Conference in Seoul. He also led SPF delegations to 12 SingaporeMalaysia CID liaison meetings. At the same time, he led an SPF team to Tokyo to study the Japanese system of community policing which was subsequently implemented, with modifications, in Singapore as the Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP) system.

Jagjit retired from the SPF in 2000. Not one to remain idle, the very next day, he started working with CISCO. He led a project to enable CISCO to undertake a new area of work, namely, law enforcement and investigation on behalf of statutory boards and government departments. This effort was accomplished in three years. Jagjit then worked with the Public Utilities Board (PUB) in 2003. He headed the security unit responsible for planning the protective security of PUB’s water supply infrastructure in Singapore and in Johor. He continued to work in PUB  until 2013 before retiring at 73 years of age.

In recognition of his outstanding service to Singapore, Jagjit has received several medals from the SPF. He was also honoured with national awards on three occasions. These awards were the Pingat Berkebolehan (Efficiency Medal), the Pingat Bakti Setia (Long Service Award) and the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star).  He is thankful for the excellent teams of officers with whom he worked in the SPF. Above all, he values the unwavering support and understanding of his wife – without her, success would not have been possible.

It has been some two years since Jagjit finally stopped full-time work. In his thirty-three year service with the SPF, he enjoyed a rewarding and enriching career. At the same time, he overcame numerous challenges and trying occasions to contribute significantly and successfully to effective crime control in Singapore.

final-sg50-book[This article is courtesy of SINGAPORE AT 50: 50 SIKHS AND THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS, a book published in 2015 by the Young Sikh Association, Singapore (YSA) in conjunction with Singapore’s 50th birthday]


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