Risks and tense situations all in a day's work for him

Ex-commander of Ang Mo Kio police division is now one of three CID deputy directors

Assistant Commissioner Lian Ghim Hua oversees major crime cases, including homicides and kidnappings, in his new role.
Assistant Commissioner Lian Ghim Hua oversees major crime cases, including homicides and kidnappings, in his new role.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

About a week before his sixth wedding anniversary in 2015, Assistant Commissioner (AC) Lian Ghim Hua was told to lead a team of police officers to Nepal to provide aid after an earthquake there killed nearly 9,000 people.

It was to be his first overseas operation.

Within days, he was on a flight to Kathmandu, not knowing when he would return to his wife and two young children.

Over the next eight days or so, he helped deliver supplies such as rice and tents to villages near Kathmandu and Pokhara - about a six-hour drive from Kathmandu - with over 60 officers under his command.

It was one of the highlights of his 14-year career in the Singapore Police Force (SPF).

Last Friday, AC Lian, 37, ended his three-year stint as commander of the Ang Mo Kio police division, taking on a new role as one of three deputy directors of the Criminal Investigation Department.

"I'd never been to Nepal before, I don't speak the language, and it was a disaster zone... naturally, there would be some risks. But I would say it's not something new," he said.

"As a police officer, there are real risks in the work that we do every day, even in Singapore. The responsible thing for me to do was to take care of all the officers who were there, and ensure that everybody went home safely to their families."

He said there was another reason for going, adding: "In the police force, we have a Gurkha Contingent. When something like that happened in their homeland, we wanted to see what we could do to help."

He recalled receiving a picture of a Nepalese boy holding a sign that said: "Thank you, SPF."

"It makes you realise that the work you did there, being away from your family, is all worthwhile," he said. AC Lianreturned to Singapore on the day of his anniversary.

There have been other tense moments. On Sept 27 last year, he received a call about a hostage situation in Sembawang. A 39-year-old man had locked himself in a flat with his girlfriend's two-year-old son.

"In our negotiations, he was not clear about his intentions," said AC Lian of the operation that lasted 17 hours.

"He wanted us and his girlfriend to turn up at the unit... but we weren't sure if that might trigger, escalate or provoke a certain response from him."

The stand-off ended after police officers forced their way into the flat. "You have to be cool about it," he said, adding that the police had to be careful in weighing their options. "Our objectives were to resolve the incident in a peaceful and safe way, and to ensure the boy remained unharmed."

But the pressures of time and safety were not the only things weighing on his mind.

"Just as I received the call and was about to make my way to Sembawang, my son had a fall at home and was bleeding. Which two-year-old boy do I give my attention to?

"My wife took charge of the situation at home, and sent me on my way to respond to the call of duty. These are the kinds of tensions between duty and family that arise, time and again, in our work as police officers."

When asked what keeps him going, he said: "Policing is a very challenging job. It's a career that is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. But at the same time, it is very fulfilling."

On his posting in Ang Mo Kio, where he served some 1.5 million residents with about 1,300 officers under his wing, he said he was deeply encouraged by the citizens' trust in the police. He cited the roll-out of police cameras in the areas there as an example.

"We need the support of the community to execute any CCTV (closed-circuit television) project," he said, adding that this may not have been welcome in some other countries.

"In Singapore, we didn't feel (the pushback) much, and we're grateful for that," said AC Lian, who oversees major crime cases, including homicides, kidnappings and serious sexual crimes, in his new role. He will also supervise the development of investigation policies.

He said of being able to carry out policing work smoothly: "It also means that we need to continue sustaining this trust (with residents)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Risks and tense situations all in a day's work for him '. Subscribe