Cops eye 'next-gen' talent
New skills needed as social media becomes as risky as the streets.
Pol Maj Gen Teeradej Thumsutee, commander of the Investigation Division of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) and renowned investigator, has initiated an advanced training programme to create a new generation of detectives capable of catching criminals in the digital era.
Pol Maj Gen Teeradej, 50, a Pathum Thani native, was recently commended after leading a team of investigators to rescue five victims from alleged scammers Haru Hwangsiri, 39, and Tripetchratana Napatchara, 20, at an apartment in Bangkok's Bang Phlat district on Oct 17.
The operation was launched after the MPB's online patrol team received a tip from a group of concerned netizens that the victims managed to contact through Facebook.
According to media outlets, Mr Haru, 39, was a cult leader who manipulated victims into quitting their jobs and investing in his business. He would then make them believe their business had incurred about 140 million baht in debt and they would have to work for him to pay it off.
The victims claimed they had been abused by Mr Haru for over three years. Mr Haru and Mr Tripetchratana were arrested and charged with unlawful detention and physical assault.
Outside the Haru case, Pol Maj Gen Teeradej has been recognised for his performance as an investigator following his graduation from the metropolitan investigation school.
When he was first appointed as deputy inspector of Metropolitan Police Division 2 he was sent to attend the crime suppression programme to study hostage negotiation techniques in New Mexico before moving on to crisis situation management at Louisiana State University.
He made use of the knowledge he had gleaned when his team defused a situation with the now-defunct Myanmar insurgent group, God's Army, that took over Ratchaburi Hospital in 2002.
His success in dealing with that high-profile incident led to promotion inspector at Metropolitan Police Division 2 before he was transferred to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD)'s sub-division 1.
He has been promoted and transferred to various positions, such as deputy superintendent of CSD's sub-division 1, superintendent of the marine police, CSD sub-division 6 and deputy commander of Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB)'s division 3.
When he was deputy commander, he was encouraged by former national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk to tackle the Nong Chompoo case, after a young girl who went missing was found dead on a mountain in Mukdahan's Dong Luang district last year.
That led to his promotion to commander of the Investigation Division of Provincial Police Region (PPR) in the east, with opportunities to work with MPB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Thiti Saengsawang, who was the PPR2's commander at that time.
Later he rose to become the commander of MPB's Investigation Division, solving criminal activities in Bangkok, including the call centre scam case in Cambodia.
Considering Pol Maj Gen Teeradej's 24 years of experience, Pol Gen Suwat encouraged him to initiate the 5G detective training programme to train a new generation of detectives to tackle technologically-savvy criminals.
The programme, attended by police from Police Forensic Science, PPR 8 and 9, is the brainchild of current national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas.
"We needed to create a new generation of detectives as we can't investigate alone," he said.
"There were only 42 officers selected from 100 candidates who wanted to participate," he said. "Many also took part in crucial cases including the cult of Haru case."
Pol Maj Gen Teeradej told the Bangkok Post there could be a shortage of detectives if investigation curricula are not properly developed.
While most detectives gain experience on the job, this programme will help them catch up with criminals using advanced technology, he said. "Detectives must be ready to take immediate action," he said.
Pol Maj Gen Teeradej said many crimes produce copycat behaviour. He said the Haru case was actually an imitation of crime in South Korea.
Normally, a criminal profile is classified under specific types of crimes and not included with other crimes, he said. For example, con artists are considered swindlers, he said.
"This has now changed. Offenders today can sell narcotics or unlicensed guns online from their room. People may fall victim to crime despite not stepping out of their homes," he said.
In response, has formed an MPB Investigation Division online patrol unit to monitor criminal activities such as drug dealing and prostitution carried out online.
"Nowadays, police can no longer scour the land only, [they must also scour] the internet," he said. "As criminals can approach victims without visiting their homes, police must also learn how to approach them with a similar method."
The unit remains active around the clock, helping police respond promptly to suspicious online activities, which led to the crackdown on the cult following the online tip-off.
He said agencies must remind a new generation of detectives that their main goal is to keep people safe from crime, not aiming for promotions.
The next generation project will be launched next year, he added.