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Home Team Merdeka Moment: Community Policing and Beyond
Meet an SPF pioneer who’s seen the transformation of community policing over the decades.

Home Team News SPF Merdeka Mr Soh
PHOTO: Fatris Bin Jasmin

8 August 2018 was a special day for Senior Station Inspector (SSI) 2 Soh Hua Lam of the Singapore Police Force (SPF).

After completing his final duties for the day, he reported to the Duty Armourer at Woodlands Checkpoint, emptying his revolver of bullets. Having done this thousands of times before, this action was simply part of his muscle memory. 

Returning his revolver, bullets, baton and handcuffs, SSI2 Soh received an extra hearty “thank you” in return from the Duty Armourer.

Back in his office, SSI2 Soh took off the various accoutrements on his uniform. Among these were the multi-coloured array of medals that were pinned above his left pocket. He placed them on his desk beside his epaulettes. Finally, he took off the distinctive blue Police uniform.

“To change out of the uniform for the last time after four decades…” Mr Soh recalled. “I can’t find the words to describe how I was feeling.”

Humble Beginnings 
Those decades have been eventful indeed for Mr Soh. “When I was young, Police officers still wore khaki shorts and were busy fighting gangsters and secret societies,” he recalled. “It was seeing Police officers break up gang fights and keep neighbourhoods safe that inspired me to join SPF.”

Mr Soh started his career as a patrol officer at Jurong Police Division in the late-1970s before transferring to Boon Lay Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP). The challenges of policing were a little different in those days; stationed at NPPs, officers patrolled smaller areas, which helped them to build rapport with residents.

“Daily life then was much slower, and we knew many of the residents personally,” recalled Mr Soh. “Some would come by our NPP, just to chat!”

Becoming a Station Sergeant
Mr Soh’s efforts on the community beat were soon noticed. “I gave my best in doing my duties, but I was still surprised to be selected to be part of the pioneer batch of Station Sergeants,” he said. 

Home Team News SPF Merdeka Mr Soh Photo 1
Mr Soh (right) with fellow officers in the late-1980s. PHOTO: Soh Hua Lam

As a Station Sergeant, Mr Soh carried the responsibility of supervising the Division’s lockup facilities. To prepare him for this role, Mr Soh trained under the Division Commander. 

At first, Mr Soh found it difficult to balance his training, shift duties and family time. “But it was all worth it, and I’m proud of what we accomplished,” he said. “Some of our findings from those early years have helped to shape our custodial policies today.”

From Post to Centre
Station Sergeants also covered vital duties such as monitoring the Division’s incidents in real time and dispatching resources in response. “In those days, many officers still carried out patrols on bicycles, and Fast Response Cars were reserved for urgent incidents,” he recalled. “But now, Fast Response Cars are found in every Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC)!”
Home Team News SPF Merdeka Mr Soh Photo 2
Community matters: Mr Soh with residents at a roadshow in Boon Lay. PHOTO: Soh Hua Lam

Soon after, Mr Soh was chosen to be a pioneer again as one of the first Team Leaders for NPCs. Introduced in 1997, this SPF-wide innovation saw NPPs being grouped together into larger entities known as NPCs, in order to better serve residents and combat crime. 

As a Team Leader with Jurong West NPC, Mr Soh was intimately familiar with the ground. He built such a warm rapport with residents that, when he was set to be transferred to another post, many wrote appeals to ask that he stay in Jurong West. 

“Having served residents for over 20 years, I was sad to leave,” recalled Mr Soh. “But I accepted the transfer as I felt I could contribute in other ways.”

A Bigger Challenge 
Having spent most of his career in community policing, Mr Soh considers his posting to Woodlands Checkpoint among his greatest professional challenges.  

“The Home Team approach had been introduced in 1997, and this was the first time I’d worked in a multi-agency setting, with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and Central Narcotics Bureau,” he explained. 

A Life in Blue
This was also a period of rapid change in the security domain. Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, security features at our checkpoints were enhanced, with “cat claw” barriers and panic alarms installed.

Never one to cling to the past, Mr Soh thrived on these operational challenges and enjoyed learning from the young officers under his charge. “I shared my Policing experience with them, and in turn, they introduced me to everything from Google to WhatsApp,” he said with a chuckle.

Having devoted his life to Policing, Mr Soh retains many of the habits of an officer. He continues to watch his diet, exercises regularly to keep fit and follows news reports on the Police keenly. “That chapter of my life has closed,” he said, “But I was blessed to have supportive colleagues and a long and fulfilling career!”
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Fatris Bin Jasmin
  2. 27 September 2019
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