Singapore Police Force
Feature | Organisation

Servitude Of A Leader

Singapore Police Force
SPF scholar, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Tan Yong Liang, shares his journey with Singapore Police Force and his vision to build a robust & humane security system for a safer Singapore.

Apassionate leader who has been actively involved in community service since secondary school, DSP Tan Yong Liang was born to serve. Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) mission to prevent, deter and detect crime made him realise that a career in the SPF was most suitable for his hands-on and dynamic personality. “Policing has both technical and human aspects. Apart from just the application of technology, there is a human aspect of training our officers as well as profiling, identifying potential terrorists and intruders that I find most appealing,” says the self-motivated officer.

New Perspectives

Recipient of the Singapore Police Force Scholarship, DSP Tan says the scholars get an added edge. “As SPF scholars, we get additional opportunities to do cross-cutting projects that involve multiple departments or even across government agencies. Participating in projects like ‘Sharing Government Data’ led by then Chief Executive of Energy Market Authority is one such example where my perspectives on policies and workflows were broadened,” he adds.

He was also fortunate to be exposed to various postings that enriched his outlook on the force and organisation at large. He began with Investigations, before moving on to Operations that included check point security, crisis preparedness, and a national emergency exercise. “The typical career path would be to go to the Ministry of Home Affairs to get a helicopter view of a wider range of issues that cross-cut with other Home Departments. This kind of learning and groundwork experience is an excellent progression to eventually take on key command positions later in my career” he quips.

DSP Tan Yong Liang

DSP Tan Yong Liang 
Singapore Police Force Scholarship

Head Operations
Ang Mo Kio Division

“As SPF scholars, we get additional opportunities to do cross-cutting projects that involve multiple departments or even across government agencies”

The scholarship enabled him to pursue his studies overseas where he had the opportunity to learn diverse topics. As an Economics graduate from Stanford University and Master’s degree in Management & Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science, he was exposed to a wide range of classes including security, nuclear weapons and terrorism. In particular, the political science classes gave him an insight into global governance and politics.

However, it was his trip to the Mexican border that was an eye-opener for him. The security measures to curb illegal immigration was appreciated in a legal, social and humane context, allowing him to understand various facets of one issue. “We cannot just think of an issue in the security aspect. For example, in Singapore when crime happens we do not just arrest and investigate. We need to work with other agencies on solving the root cause of the problem.

For instance, the SPF runs the Youth Engagement Programme to engage at-risk youths through sports and activities, to prevent them from turning to crime” he elaborates.

Gearing to Lead

As Head of Operations in Ang Mo Kio Division, his role includes overseeing all operational matters in the division’s jurisdiction. This includes incident management, frontline policing, divisional operations room and lockup, major event deployments, security and counter-terrorism, anti-vice and licensing matters. The Operations Branch also serves as the link between the Police Headquarters (HQ) and the ground, by channelling timely feedback, and communicating HQ’s intent and policies to the ground. “What I do here as Head of Operations is the microcosm of SPF at large. I work alongside my officers to ensure the safety and security of this district. I work together with HQ to improve work processes as a whole in SPF as well,” he shares.

Meaning and Purpose

Being in the SPF is not just about fulfilling your duty; it is also about upholding specific values. DSP Tan swears by the values of courage and humility in achieving his mission. “It is important for one to be courageous. Have the courage to ask the hard questions, the courage to push things forward, and the courage to be fair and impartial. The other value which I think is important in this line is humility. We need to engage and empathise with what is happening on the ground and appreciate them in order to bring in better policy changes, “he advises.

“Whichever role you play, it is essential that you find it fulfilling.” For DSP Tan, the SPF’s crime prevention initiative, Project Green Leaf, engaging the at-risk youth is most gratifying. “This year we have more than a hundred students. We engaged them in various activities such as, frisbee tournaments, t-shirt design, and community service so that they stay away from crime. It is most satisfying to see how you have impacted lives positively.

For aspiring scholars who wish to follow in his footsteps, he shares, “Try to understand the organisation before committing to any scholarship. You are signing on to a career, and not just a tuition sponsorship. Be humble, open-minded, courageous, and always have a positive attitude to learn.”