THE police are offering university sponsorships to more junior officers who do not have a bachelor's degree.
They hope this will attract more men and women to join the force and encourage serving officers - who can be upgraded to senior officers - to remain in service after they graduate.
More than 150 degree sponsorships were awarded by the police last year, double the 70 given out in 2011, said Senior Assistant Commissioner Tan Hung Hooi.
The higher number of sponsorships awarded is due in part to two new upgrading programmes rolled out last year, said the director of manpower.
The Ministry of Home Affairs-Liverpool Sponsorship Programme and the Full-Time Degree Sponsorship Programme give serving junior officers a chance to study full-time for a sponsored degree here or overseas, while drawing up to full pay.
On graduation, they are placed on the senior police officer track.
Both career tracks may even be merged eventually, said SAC Tan. This is because an ongoing human resource study, which began last year, is looking at whether such a move will help the police hire and retain talent.
How the force is addressing its labour crunch was thrust into the spotlight during the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot earlier this year.
Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee said then that policing efforts in areas like Geylang and Little India had stretched resources near breaking point, and asked for another 1,000 officers to improve police presence in those areas as well as across the island.
Police numbers have also not kept pace with population growth here, said Mr Ng, with the population-to-police ratio more than double that of comparable cities such as Hong Kong and New York. The COI report and its recommendations are due out by Friday.
SAC Tan said the force has ramped up recruitment and made it a priority to develop officers' careers "across all ranks" not just as a retention tool, but also to stay attractive as an employer.
Since the two sponsorship programmes were rolled out, the police have also seen more interest from potential applicants in their continuous education schemes.
"Career progression is an area a lot of students are more interested in recently," said Staff Sergeant Ong Chao Hui, one of more than 300 career advisers in the force. "They want to find out what the schemes are about, and how they can apply for them."
SAC Tan said the force has also implemented other policy changes in response to officers' feedback, such as raising the retirement age from 50 to 55 years old last October for junior officers. Some may also be able to extend their service till they are 60.