No U-Turn Syndrome (NUTS)


Dumbest things done by Singapore police

Like kids, Police also capable of “dumbest things”

Our police have done highly commendable jobs as witnessed in and publicized by Crime Watch.

At the same time like kids they are also capable of doing the “dumbest things”,

The recent case of an offense of using a mobile phone while driving is a case in point.

The offense is compoundable and even after she paid the compound fine and demerited, police continue to withhold her mobile phone containing personal and confidential information.

The question is what else can the police do for this offense unless of course they are trawling at their own leisure for any other offense of subversive or pornographic nature.

Any one knows that won’t take more than five minutes. But they would keep it for days on end with the cliche “to facilitate ongoing investigation.”

In my wife’s case bringing through the woodlands checkpoint a small package of “pok pok” for our two-year old grandson, she was subjected to police treatment as if she was trying to smuggle in a carload of gunpowder!

She was brought to a police car and escorted to Jurong police station by 3 policemen.

After being kept for a few hours while the police filed in their report she was asked to contact someone to bail her out. As I was overseas she called our son to bail her.

Then two weeks later she was called to the Jurong police station again and warned that she could be charged in court for bringing in explosive. But the police inspector said ” I will let you off this time with a warning. If you do it again you will be charged.”

The next time when she was stopped for bringing in a pack of 10 eggs the thought of what she had been through the previous time sent shiver down her spine and her face turned sickly pale.

When she was led to a room the policeman had to open with a big key her thought was “die I am going into a lockup.”

When the door was opened and what she saw was a dustbin for her to dump the eggs she sighed a heavy heave of relief and started thanking the policeman profusely (prima facie for making her dump the high grade omega boosted eggs into a rubbish bin.)

In my case when buying a secondhand mobile phone the slew hands of the shop-owner had me carrying the phone box home with all the accessories and manual but minus the phone.

This is a clear case of cheating and even theft but the Yishun police insisted it was a case for CASE. Had they come with me to the shop a simple search would suffice. But no, the policeman insisted on Case which on its part maintained it only handles cases of defective goods or goods not up to the standard.

These are only some of the “dumbest” cases and I am sure you folks have your share too.


I came across the above article. I read through and found it truly reflects the general nature of our civil service. Some of those things mentioned are not exclusive to the SPF only. Most govt and quasi-govt depts share similar work culture and attitude.

I was a PO for about 12 years. Surely I know much about their eco-system within the civil service. There are few golden rules you need to follow if you want to make a career in the civil service. If you follow strictly those golden rules, your iron rice bowl is safe.

The first golden rule is to follow by the rule book. In the case of SPF, it’s the PGO (Police General Orders), IM (Instruction Manual) and other directives or FOs (Force Orders). How to remember so many orders and directives over the years? Simple, just make a copy each time a new instruction or order comes out which supersedes the previous one and file it in your own folder. You’ll start accumulating all those orders and instructions as the years slip by. So long as you adhere strictly to those orders and instructions written on paper in black and white, you will never get the sack. You will never go wrong. You will survive till pension.

There is no room for empowerment on the ground. You are discouraged to exercise initiative or common sense. Assuming that you deviate from those writtten SOFs (Standard Operations Procedures) and something goes wrong. It backfires. Your bosses would throw all the books on your face. The first standard charge is failure to comply with proper instructions and SOFs yadda yadda … But if it is successful as a result of your own initiative, no one would pat you on the your back for a job well done. This is “NUTS” (No U-Turn Syndrome) according to Creative Technology founder Sim Wong Hoo.

“In Singapore, drivers are not allowed to U-turn unless instructed otherwise, as shown by this traffic sign.

No U-Turn Syndrome (NUTS) is a term first coined by Singapore entrepreneur Sim Wong Hoo, to prominently describe the social behaviour of Singaporeans having a mindset of compliance to higher authorities before proceeding with any action.

In his book “Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millennium,” he uses a comparison of traffic rules in Singapore to those found overseas, to describe the phenomenon : In Singapore, drivers are not allowed to make a U-turn unless a sign specifically allows them to do so, while in some other countries drivers may make U-turns freely so long as the ‘No U-turn’ sign is not present. Following that, this analogy is used to explain the red tape he has encountered with hard-nosed bureaucrats, which in turn stifles the very creativity that the Singaporean government has been trying to promote in the recent years.

NUTS is also considered as one of the major criticisms of the rigid Singapore education system, where students are taught from a young age to obey instructions in an unquestioning manner, in a society where grades and paper certification are emphasised at the expense of some life skills.” Source


To make matters worst, some of them even try to CYA (Cover Your Arse). They are pre-occupied with taking all measures to fool-proof and safe-guard themselves against any complaints or allegations of wrong doing. For example when I tried to close a case either due to lacking in evidence or no leads at all, my supervisor would direct me by writing in the minutes of the IPs (Investigation Papers) one hundred and one or even one thousand and one things to do before he could trust me to CFF (Complete for filing) the case. Often, he would direct the IP to his supervisor cuz he dared not make the decision. The IP, if it’s a sensitive case kept moving up until it might even reach AGC. The chain of command or “ta-chi_ing” to one another is to CYA! As simple as that! Pass or push the ball to your court. You answer in case that time bomb explodes!

As long as you follow the rules I was told by all the old-timers when I was rookie, nothing will ever happen to you. You will not get into trouble if only you just follow the rules; never mind about the inconvenience caused to the public or the untold man hours and massive costs involved in shuffling unnecessary paper work. Once an IP is created, it’s so difficult to “kill” it. Every 5 to 6 days, you keep accumulating IPs when you take on a 24-hour tour of duty. With more IPs created on each tour of duty and so few CFF, the end result is that you will be swarmed with IPs. Each year, I had 35 days of A/L (21 vacation and 14 casual). But I had to take at least a week of my own leave doing nothing but to clear as many IPs as possible. No one believes me when I told them that I took my own leave to clear work – so that I would not be rostered for active duty.

I could go on and on but I am afraid that I might be hauled to court under OSA if I reveal more of my previous life. We have yet to reach the level of those advanced countries where there is clear freedom of speech and total transparency. I don’t think those gods will take my comments kindly.

I just wish to add that I recently heard of two langgar stories from my friends about SPF. The first case related by my fren Y, a retired pensioner. He told me his fren had left some expensive heavy machinery outside his JTC flatted factory. It was chained and covered. He didn’t shift it into the premises due to space and it’s heavy. He planned to shift it to another factory premises. The next day, it gone missing. He reported it to the police in the police station. The PO classified the case as “missing item!” under “Lost and Found” property. KNN!


The complainant was incensed. It’s a clear cut case of theft. Someone had stolen it. The PO on duty insisted that the item was left outside the factory premises so it’s only a missing item. The case was classified as NOD (No Offence Disclosed). There was no criminal offence revealed. KNN! When my friend heard that story from his friend, he shook his head and wondered aloud what’s happening to our new batch of young officers with much higher education? I would never have classified it as NOD. Highly educated young officers with diplomas and degrees but not street smart enough. It will take years thru’ trial and error to hone their skills. It’s not possible if turnover rate is high! Experienced officers leave the service only to be replaced by younger ones. They are not able to retain a pool of dedicated experienced officers. This vicious cycle keeps repeating itself. It’s a reflection of our core locals across all industries at the national level where loyalty is a thing of the past and cost cutting to trim the bottom-line is the norm. It’s all happening everywhere around us if only you care to examine closely.

I then asked my fren that if you discover your car parked at the carpark gone. Is it missing property or theft? On knowing the mentality of the police too well, my fren said that it could be a case of someone driving off your vehicle without your permission. As such, it is a traffic offence of driving without authorisation; not criminal offence of theft. Again NOD! Every case, they will try to NOD. They love to NOD cases.

We have zero crime tolerance. We don’t have crime here ok? Only if there is an accused caught in the criminal act, then it’s a crime committed. The crime is solved with the accused apprehended. Otherwise, there is no crime you know? Langgar!

Next case, Douglas was relating his recent encounter of a police road block near to his place at Pasir Ris Dr 1 when his boss sent him home past mid night. Some young officers with Sgt rank and an ASP were conducting a road block at Pasir Ris Dr 1. Douglas and his boss surrendered their particulars and were duly screened. Police Officer asked where they were staying. Douglas said nearby and that his boss also living nearby was sending him home. Next question followed, “Where did you all come from?” Douglas got pissed off. “Officer, if I were to tell you we just came from Geylang Rd having screwed some girls. What are you going to do about it?” That young officer holding the rank of Sgt immediately retorted that “you are obstructing the police on duty!” Douglas told him off by asking him if he knew what is “obstructing police on duty? Don’t simply let go like that.” That led to a commotion.

The young ASP then came forward to enquire. Douglas identified himself as a retired police detective with more than 30 years service and that his boss was a retired DSP now running a security firm with more than 100 staff. Douglas is working for him. There was an immediate change in their attitude admonishing them for not disclosing their background earlier. They would not be screened if they did! Douglas told me that nowadays POs are highly educated compared to his time. But hopelessly lacking in EQ, common sense or real experience when handling people. Douglas says that when dealing with today’s demanding public, PO need to be tactful, careful of what to say and wise not to sprout nonsense opening avenues for the public to tekan you!

Both interesting cases were related to me by my retired police officer friends. They are of the same opinion that today’s police officers could not hold a candle to those veterans of that era whom had seen much action. I’ve got many more police stories to relate. I’ll leave it on another time.

PS: ‘NUTS’ happens to be Freddie’s favourite pet topic whenever he criticizes public servants. He’s had his fair share of encounters with those NUTS bureaucrats.


About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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14 Responses to No U-Turn Syndrome (NUTS)

  1. Roaring Lion says:

    With the emphasis of education in our society, it is not difficult to get a diploma or degree in the modern context. With the advert of internet era, it is quite easy to find information needed to do a class project without plagiarism by rephrasing the whole sentences.

    On the other hand, the real world is tested on level of adaptability and understanding in situation encounter by which the solution provided is based on experience and gut feeling. Neuroscience has found that average human being uses only 10% of the brainpower. Thus, the finding is quite conclusive and interesting to know why some people is NUTS per se.

    • That is why the NUS is revising all their curriculum across the board. The same curriculum has served them well for more than 10 yrs. Now it’s time to change to more critical thinking, creative and innovative based relevancy.

  2. 3-stars collar general (WO) says:

    During my time, we went through 2 solid years of probation as a police constable (PC) before attaining our confirmed PC status. Now, if you have a diploma or an ‘A’ level you will pass out from the training academy holding a Sergeant rank. The glaring different is the experience and the quality of the officers years ago as compare to the current batch of officers even though the latter has higher education. These days, higher educated does not mean better as we would like to assume. It just simply means that one has passed a certain examination at a certain level. Pure and simple.

    • Educated doesn’t mean you are smart. You can be an educated idiot! Recent living example is our expletives spouting Amy Cheong. There are lots of them around if only you open up your eyes to observe. We’ve got rich educated idiot making sweeping stmt i.e. $3,000 dishwasher or spending $2,200 bike is worth it! Or that few hundred bucks office chairs? In line with this logic, why not all police cars change to BMWs? Better value for money right? Everyone knows that a BMW is a fantastic car but costs a bomb. If it’s money not coming from your pocket, better be very careful on how you spend it. It’s pure common sense right? If its your own money, no one will bid any eyelid.
      I joined as a constable with full A levels – 2 As and 3 Os in 1983. After 7 yrs, I was promoted to Cpl. On the 10th yr, then only got Sgt. They told me I won’t be promoted anymore. It’s an average of 5 yrs per rank just nice when I retire at 50 yrs. I was told in black and white by Police HQ. There were another 4 higher ranks which could last me for another 20 yrs! That was the mindset then. I still got the memo written by them with me.
      Today, you could just join as a Sgt with zero police experience when it took me 10 yrs to get there! It’s no more value compared to my era. Nowadays, they lelong all the ranks -even ASP rank also can lelong! Langgar!

  3. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    On protocols-Despite years of experience and however sharp intuition, I think police officers have to follow strictly. Police are no judge. Everyone has the right to defend. Not following proper protocols could very well throw an entire case out of the court. Simple example, I’ve seen many customs, security and police officers opening people’s bags for checks. If contraband is found, how are these officers going to argue the case if the accused claim he don’t know how it got in and the last person to touch his bags was the officer? Question is, are the officers aware of the purposes, the objectives of these protocols? Are their management, the ones to set (remove) the protocols aware of the implications?

    • I just want to add… however some public officers appear to be monkeys, the majority I encountered project themselves professionally.

  4. agongkia says:

    One Tua Kow can jokingly or naively say sms someone while driving is not an offence when he brief his men that using a hand phone while driving is an offence.Who dare question a Tua Kow?

    Worst are those who ruin someone’s future by charging him not because the subject committed the offence but because of their own incompetency and ruin an innocent man for life.Who dare to challenge them if one want to continue to earn a living?
    Sometime,they just want to secure a conviction.

    Having say that,to be fair,there are handful of NS and regular NPCOs,who are in their 20s but are impressive and competent when handling cases.

  5. Randy says:

    That’s why I’ve always maintained that civil servants in Singapore are typically mindless, souless drones just willing to do the minimum and then go home. Whether it’s the HDB or the gigantic wayang show that is the Army.

    Case-in-point: The police also won’t act on complaints unless someone announces it to the media and make the news public. Even if 3 caucasians beat up a taxi driver like the case a couple of years back. The police didn’t give a damn until the one of the victims published his story in the papers and then things moved quicker. By then, it was already more than a year since the incident.

    Btw, why don’t the police do something useful like track down all those loansharks that you see everyday blatantly advertising in the papers, instead of setting up speed cameras at Lornie Rd or catching people making out at Mt Faber or sleeping at their desks in their NPP?

  6. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    On road blocks- seems like standard questions ‘where you going… where you came from’. Why? Answer to first question is usually easy, home. But the second? Here’s a few possibilities:
    1) came from work
    2) from orchard road
    3) from BKE and before that PIE

    If you are particularly jovial
    4) Singapore lor
    5) that traffic junction behind me

    Here’s more if you’re testy but I don’t recommend
    6) from beer drinking competition where my friends and I party like crazy and downed 5 barrels of beer. Don’t believe? Check my alcohol content lor.
    7) from geylang where I had paid sex with an under 17 and gosh, super tok gong
    8) I came from my mother’s under

    I mean… what’s the purpose of asking this question? Can they not ask ‘where were you when you start your journey?’

    • Ape,
      You shld answer you came from the zoo! I’m now attending NTWU annual dinner at Orchids country club. So many PRC bus drivers obviously enjoying themselves here! Look out tomor’s blog.

  7. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: Week 41 (8 Oct – 12 Oct 2012) | The Singapore Daily

  8. the dumbness shows in a lot of other ways in grassroots organisations like CDCs and some stat boards and GLCs. They are so used to just following and not questioning thise in power that many have cultivated this ability to carry out dumb actions and instructions without even realising it’s dumb! it is really time to change the mindset and attitudes starting with our young so kudos to NUS for making changes. Lets hope for a better tomorrow for our people 🙂

  9. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    On withholding mobile phones…
    Coincidentally, a friend of mine also got his handphone withheld when he was caught ‘talking on mobile phone while driving’. My friend claims that he actually pulled to the side, turn on his hazard lights before answering the call. Nevertheless, the traffic warden (or police?) maintained he committed the offence because his engine was running, thus technically, he was ‘driving’. Summon issued, handphone withheld. Asked me what can he do? All his contacts, data etc are in the phone. I first response was ‘Do you have any pornography in your phone?’ We laughed. That eased his mood a bit. I told him he could refuse to pay summon and thrash out the case in court but that means his phone will be held in custody even longer because it is a vital piece of evidence… with no guarantee that his charge will be dropped because I’m no lawyer and don’t know the exact technicalities of the law. Or he could pay the fine and request for the phone to be returned (or at least retrieve all the data) since there’s no reason for the police to keep it. He took the second option. Paid the fine and got his phone back after he asked. He did add that he asked politely and the officer was very helpful.

  10. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    On navigating through redtapes when closing case…
    Police jargon, Complete For Filing (CFF). In engineering line, we call No Fault Found (NFF). Be glad that your boss, his boss and boss of his boss takes special interest when cases go CFF. It means they want to ensure all reasonable actions have been taken and the IO has carried out his investigations with due diligence and not close cases frivolously.
    Imagine when you operate the train and felt that it’s not running quite smoothly as usual. You lodge a report to your engineering department. They did some checks and tell you NFF. As each day pass and you felt the ride gets less smooth each day. You colleagues felt the same. Everytime, all the reports come back NFF because the maintenance team always look at the same gauges, check the same things, in accordance with the maintenance manual. Then, major breakdown due to a faulty part that was not subject to routine maintenance checks and not one of the troubleshooting guidelines. Will you wish a more thorough check to have taken place?
    In his defence, the technician claims that his Work Orders (equivalent of police IP) keeps growing and he has no resource to handle, even though he had wanted to check beyond the prescribed steps, would you wish that his boss should’ve engage more technicians?

    See where I’m getting at? Bosses like to say do more with less. Do they really know what’s going on?

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