Sgt. Uvaraja Gopal (born in 1987) was a Singaporean police officer who had made allegations of workplace discrimination against the Singapore Police Force (SPF). On 21 July 2023, Uvaraja made claims that there was ongoing bullying and racism against him at work. He was later found unresponsive at the foot of an Yishun HDB flat, before being pronounced dead in hospital on the same day.
Early life and education
According to a friend and former colleague, Raj Naga, the late Uvaraja Gopal had grown up in a dysfunctional household and had to begin working part-time at a young age. He had an alcoholic father who was insolvent, while his mother was wheelchair bound and suffered from “long term physical and mental ailments”.
It was the notion of supporting his sick mother and establishing a stable career for himself that motivated him to work hard. In fact, his time as a National Serviceman also inspired him to become a police officer.
Public Service Career
Served in the Singapore Police Force for 11 years
After Uvaraja Gopal completed his National Service, he managed to become a regular officer and was posted to the Ang Mo Kio Police Division. Thereafter, he would go on to serve as part of the plainclothes unit for the next three years, before being transferred to Ang Mo Kio North Neighbourhood Police Station. Over the span of the next few years, he was transferred to six other work units at his request.
“I first met Raja when he was serving his National Service as a patrol officer in 2007. I remember the team he served in was filled with officers we now call ‘legends’ due to their crime busting skills. This is where he was inspired to become a regular officer.” Raj Naga, the then Senior Paracounsellor at Ang Mo Kio Police Division, speaking on Uvaraja’s professional ambitions.
Prior to his death, Uvaraja made a Facebook post on 21 July 2023, claiming that he faced racial discrimination and unfair treatment from his superiors and unit members at work. This included taking leave for his medical conditions and to care for his ailing mother. He also mentioned that he sought professional help and assistance, but did not receive any.
Investigations into Uvaraja’s claims and death
On 21 July 2023, Minister for Law, Shanmugam requested SPF to conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Sgt. Uvaraja Gopal. The police force have since made a formal statement on this matter and thanked the late Uvaraja for his service.
As of 25 July 2023, SPF will be reviewing their findings and referring them to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).
Singapore Police Force clarified and denied much of the allegations made
In response to Uvaraja’s claims, SPF concluded that the late officer had been “facing substantial challenges at work” and that unlike Uvaraja’s claims of workplace discrimination, they had actively made allowances and provided help for his case.
- Providing coaching to address performance issues at work
- Providing counselling and psychological assistance since 2016
- Allowing him to transfer to six different work units in the span of nine years
- Granting him additional leave beyond his basic leave entitlements
As of July 2023:
- Uvaraja had worked for fewer than 25 days.
- Uvaraja had reported to a new unit in February, following his request. However, he had shown signs of being unstable.
- On 16 February 2023, he was counselled by a para-counsellor and later attended to by a psychologist from the Police Psychological Services Department.
- The police have investigated into Uvaraja’s allegations of racial discrimination in the workplace, and have declared that they were “unsubstantiated”.
On 16 February 2023, due to concerns over Uvaraja’s mental health and stability, he was also thereafter relieved from carrying firearms.
Tense relationship with family at the time
According to SPF, Uvaraja had not been on the best terms with his family around the period of his passing. On 13 July 2023, the police were called to his parents’ home, where Uvaraja was engaged in a familial dispute and had even allegedly struck his brother.
The following day, Uvaraja’s mother personally lodged a police report against her son, due to concerns over his safety. Moreover, the police also received a call from Uvaraja’s sister-in-law, as he had shown up on her doorstep. He left the premises soon after the police arrived.
Account by SPF para-counsellor and friend, Raj Naga
In a Facebook post that was published after the passing of Uvaraja, a former colleague and friend of the officer shared his perspective and account regarding the case.
Firstly, Raj Naga spoke of Uvaraja’s determination to serve as a police officer, as well as his strong sense of duty and righteousness as a public servant. Uvaraja was someone who was not afraid to call out any misconduct he observed among his fellow officers, including vaping or smoking within station premises.
“He was very clear that his calling as a Police Officer was to serve the public, and not about pleasing his superiors. He never once smoked or drank alcohol, was an avid runner and was always fighting fit. He would regularly share videos with me of incidents involving police forces around the world for us to discuss.”
Raj was later assigned to Uvaraja as his para-counsellor and through their interactions, the former was able to learn about Uvaraja’s experience in the police force. He stated that Uvaraja has to face several obstacles, including health-related conditions like anxiety attacks and insomnia, as well as surgeries on two separate occasions. Coupled with the need to care for his mother, Uvaraja had no choice but to apply for leave on several occasions. However, instead of compassion, Uvaraja was faced with harsh criticism and was even probed about the legitimacy of his medical conditions. From what Uvaraja shared with him, Raj detailed that the former also faced discrimination and racism at work, such as being called a racial slur and being ostracised by his teammates. His Commanding Officer also contributed to this stressful environment, by raising his voice, using profanities, and even “shouting at him to resign”.
“During this time, the Division Commander attempted to have Raja’s employment terminated but it was rejected on the grounds that his medical condition was genuine. The Division Commander then referred him to the Internal Affairs Office for investigation in Dec 2016 for not staying indoors during medical leave, despite the fact that Raja was actually on no-pay leave. That investigation concluded with no further action being taken against him.”
References / Citations
- The Must Share News Team. “Police Officer Found Motionless In Yishun Accused SPF Of Racial Discrimination & Bullying In Final Facebook Post”. MS News. July 22, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.
- Cheng, Ian. “Police to look into claims of racial discrimination, other allegations after officer’s death: Shanmugam”. The Straits Times. July 21, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.
- Begum, Yasmin. “SPF to investigate allegations of racial discrimination, workplace bullying made by officer before his death: Shanmugam”. CNA. July 22, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.
- Lee, Jeremy. “Police Officer Passes Away After Being Found At Foot Of Yishun Block, SPF Investigating”. MS News. July 21, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.
- Naga, Raj. “Raj Naga”. Facebook. July 22, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.
- Yuam, Valerie. “Police Officer Allegedly Left Friend A 4-Minute Voice Message Before Being Found Dead In Yishun”. MS News. July 23, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.
- Tan, Cheryl. “Policeman’s death: Police to review workplace discrimination allegations, submit findings to AGC”. The Straits Times. July 24, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.
- Singapore Police Force. “POLICE STATEMENT ON ALLEGATIONS MADE BY LATE POLICE OFFICER SGT UVARAJA S/O GOPAL”. Singapore Police Force. July 24, 2023. Accessed 27th July 2023.