‘Work ethic will get you far’


Steadfast and dedicated: Among Comm Lee’s notable achievements is being among those who drew up the police SOP for cases involving autistic people. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: “Don’t sell yourself short. Reach for the stars.”

This was the rallying call made by Comm Datuk Dr Lee Bee Phang to all policewomen in the force.

Comm Lee, who was just promoted to the rank of Commissioner, said in an exclusive interview with The Star that when it came to police work, no gender was superior to the other.

“The men and women who serve are equally important. Show your work ethic and the top leadership will notice your efforts. Everybody has their role to play and you must play it, ” she said.

Comm Lee is in charge of the Research and Development team in the Chief of IGP Secretariat office, which among others is tasked with coming up with standard operating procedures for the police.

Among her notable accomplishments is being among those who constructed the police SOP for cases involving autistic people.

This made Malaysia the second Asean country to have such an SOP.

Despite that, the promotion still came as a welcome surprise.

“I was on the way to dinner with my sister during a working trip in Penang. My driver told me that the new orders had just come in and asked me to look at it. I was a bit puzzled but my sister and I both looked at the promotion notice.

“She said ‘Sister!’ loudly as we read it, ” she recalled with a smile.

Comm Lee has her fair share of mentors and idols in the police force, such as Comm (retired) Datuk Robiah Abdul Ghani, who blazed the trail for other female police officers.

Comm Robiah was the first female police commissioner, first female state police chief (Pahang) and first female Bukit Aman director (Management).

On her start in the police force, Comm Lee said it was a stroke of luck and that in another life she might have joined the army instead.

“I was in the reserve army, but I saw an advert to join PDRM and started my career there in 1987.

“I started my service at a time when the force was dominated by men, but they always supported my work and gave me their full cooperation, ” she said.

Comm Lee said times were changing with more female officers being placed in senior postings, adding that a career in the force was now a viable one for women.

“The police force is ever evolving according to the current needs and requirements. We have an attrition rate of 6,000 to 7,000 yearly and that needs to be filled up.

“Currently, the number of female officers in the force is 15,732 or 13.5%. This shows that the police force recognises women as playing an important role, ” she said.

On her current role, Comm Lee said she had a few ideas up her sleeve: “This department (R&D) is one of a kind in the police force and it is our job to draft the SOP. We are the ‘thinkers’.

“I would like to have more engagements with universities. Perhaps we can do joint research, ” she said, adding that such collaborations would give fresh perspectives on how crime-fighting could evolve.

It is also no surprise that research is high on her to-do list.

Comm Lee has a reputation of being a pursuer of knowledge. She completed both her master’s degree and doctorate in juvenile crime while in active service.

“You make time for education. That was drilled into me by my father, ” she said.

Regarding police work in a post-pandemic Malaysia, she said this was also a major concern for her team, with 2020 being an eye-opener for all enforcement agencies.

“The whole landscape of how we tackle threats has changed.

“The World Health Organisation says we will be living with Covid-19 for a few more years but we will be more prepared. We have to take all this into consideration when we make our five-year plan, ” she said.

Despite her full schedule, Comm Lee still makes time for another love of hers – writing.

“It’s something I picked up when doing my theses and research. A memoir of mine is in the works and Tan Sri IGP (Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador) is doing my foreword, for which I thank him, ” she said.

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