Grandpa's police stories inspire Home Team Scholarship recipient

Scholarship recipient Jared Koh was inspired to join the police force by his grandfather, Mr Tan Hang Meng, who was a former policeman. Mr Koh grew up listening to his grandfather's police yarns. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Scholarship recipient Jared Koh was inspired to join the police force by his grandfather, Mr Tan Hang Meng, who was a former policeman. Mr Koh grew up listening to his grandfather's police yarns. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Mr Jared Koh, 20, grew up listening to his grandfather's police yarns, including his time as a beat cop in Singapore's founding years.

A particularly memorable one is how Mr Tan Hang Meng, 78, his maternal grandfather, was tasked to enforce the curfew during the 1964 racial riots.

"I understood how violent the clashes were from my history lessons in school... the thing that struck me most was that he wasn't scared of enforcing the curfew; he said do your job properly and people will respect you," he said.

These "grandfather stories" so inspired him that he decided to join the Singapore Police Force. Mr Koh was one of 14 people awarded Home Team Scholarships in a virtual ceremony yesterday.

He said his decision to become a policeman also stemmed from his own experience in the Boys' Brigade and Red Cross Youth uniformed groups, and was further cemented when he was posted to the police for his national service.

He is currently with the Police Coast Guard.

Like his grandfather, he had to deal with unruly residents while on a short attachment with a neighbourhood police centre, said Mr Koh, recalling an incident where he had to help manage a drunk man who was creating a ruckus.

But unlike his grandfather, he has modern technology like smartphones and police cameras to help him in policing work.

In Mr Tan's time, police officers had only radios in their police car, and they often had to look for payphones to call their headquarters, said Mr Koh.

"But the main gist of (policing) is always the same: the police are there to keep Singapore safe and secure... and make sure that Singaporeans can live harmoniously with one another. This aspect of police work will never change," he added.

Mr Koh, a former Victoria Junior College student, plans to study law in the United Kingdom.

Other scholarship recipients in this year's batch include Mr Li Kangli, 22, who did a stint with the Home Affairs Ministry's digital and forensics team during his NS.

He will study computer science at the National University of Singapore, and serve his bond in the Home Team Science and Technology Agency.

This year's Singapore Police Force Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships awarded by the Public Service Commission, went to Ms Sundaram Mohan Shakthi, 19, and Mr Sim Zheng Hao, 21.

Mr Sim, who will be studying liberal arts in New York University, said he hopes to build on the police's community partnerships.

He added: "What I have learnt this year, with Covid-19 and events all around the world... is the importance of flexibility and empathy when listening to people on the ground."

In an address during the virtual ceremony, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the high level of trust the public have in Home Team agencies can be easily lost if people feel the agencies are no longer acting to protect them, as recent developments in other countries have shown.

Highlighting the Covid-19 pandemic as another challenge, he added: "The Home Team will continue to need strong and capable leaders who can lead our officers, prepare for and tackle future crises and maintain the very high level of public trust that we have today."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2020, with the headline 'Grandpa's police stories inspire Home Team Scholarship recipient'. Print Edition | Subscribe