Wade in canal to nab suspect? Young cop jumped right in

Sergeant Desmond Heng, with the help of his colleague Lee Zheng Biao, showing how he brought the suspect to safety while in the water at Rochor Canal. ST VIDEO: DEREK WONG
Above: The episode in the canal was captured briefly on camera, showing Sergeant Desmond Heng supporting the shirtless suspect in the shoulder-deep water. Left: Sgt Heng, who joined the police force in April last year, said he did not act on his own,
Sgt Heng, who joined the police force in April last year, said he did not act on his own, and knew he had support from fellow officers.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

When he joined the police force in April last year, Sergeant Desmond Heng, 25, never thought he would have to one day wade in canal water to help arrest a suspect.

But he did just that in Rochor Canal last Saturday when he had to help nab a suspect who had allegedly harassed members of the nearby Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Ophir Road.

The Straits Times understands that the man had approached some women in the church and made them uncomfortable with his actions. One of the women ran out of the building, and was followed by the man.

The episode in the canal was captured briefly on camera, showing Sgt Heng supporting the shirtless suspect in the shoulder-deep water while another officer grabbed a life buoy.

"The thing I was most worried about was that he would struggle in the water and give me difficulties," Sgt Heng said at a media briefing yesterday.

Another challenge, he added, was communicating with the man as he was in a drunken stupor and did not appear to understand English.

"My main focus was on locating him and quickly bringing him up, as he would sometimes be submerged in the water," said Sgt Heng, who added that the man reeked of alcohol and was laughing hysterically.

The first two police officers who arrived at the scene after getting a call for help around 1.30pm saw the man lying face up in shallow water in a 3m-deep drain, with a cut on his chin.

He did not respond to the officers, and walked unsteadily towards the canal linked to the drain.

He entered a tunnel leading to the canal, and swam into it. The officers had decided not to engage the man in the drain as its slippery surface meant a struggle could lead to injury.

Instead, a backup team of six, among whom was Sgt Heng, was called to go to Rochor Canal. Inspector Ishak Mohali decided to rescue the man, and Sgt Heng was chosen to enter the canal as he was the most confident swimmer.


Sgt Heng, who joined the police force in April last year, said he did not act on his own, and knew he had support from fellow officers. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

His colleague, Sgt Caleb Kok, 24, was also on standby to enter the canal. After about 10 minutes, they hauled the man up to land.

The 26-year-old suspect was arrested for using abusive words against a public servant, intentional harassment and drunkenness in a public place. Investigations are ongoing.

 
 

Sgt Heng, who learnt swimming from his uncle, said it was the most unique experience he has had since he started patrolling in the Rochor area 11 months ago.

Asked about his reaction to the viral video, he joked that he looked very ugly, with his hair in a mess.

He added: "A lot of media attention has been directed at me, I just hope to direct the attention to the police force... I did not act on my own and knew I had support."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'Wade in canal to nab suspect? Young cop jumped right in'. Print Edition | Subscribe