Poh Yu Quan, an Investigation Officer (IO) in the Central Police Division, is a recipient of the Singapore Police Force Scholarship (SPFS). He holds a Bachelor of Science from Imperial College London and a Masters of Arts (Social Sciences) from the University of Chicago.
IOne of the first things we learn as children is to call the Police if we need help. The SPF, which safeguards the public safety and security of Singapore, is the first line of defence against crime, and therefore vital to our city.
It is no wonder that the Singapore Police Force Scholarship (SPFS) is one of the most prestigious scholarships awarded by the Public Service Commission. With the large pool of potential recipients, it can only be given to the best of the best – candidates who have shown outstanding leadership qualities, possess impeccable integrity and have a strong interest in police work to safeguard our nation.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Poh Yu Quan, an Investigation Officer (IO) in the Central Police Division, is a recipient of the SPFS. With a Bachelor of Science from Imperial College London and a Masters of Arts (Social Sciences) from the University of Chicago, ASP Poh gives an insider perspective of police work in Singapore.
An Unexpected Career
“It was never really an aspiration or childhood dream,” ASP Poh tells us. As a student in NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, he always imagined himself becoming a doctor or a scientist. And suiting action to word, he went for a few attachments with hospitals and did some research projects, but nothing seemed to spark his interest. “The organisations I was attached to did make an impact on society,” he confides. “But it wasn’t really the kind of exciting career that I wanted.”
That was when he came across the SPF Book Prize and got the opportunity to enter many different attachment programmes, which was when he knew he had found his calling. To be sure of himself, he went through extensive attachments with different departments, to firm up his determination to build a career in the police force.
From working the beat in Geylang, to helping an elderly man having an asthma attack, ASP Poh’s days were not only filled with excitement, but also gave him a palpable sense of purpose as he knew he was saving and protecting the country he loved. “Police officers not only uphold the law,” he states, “but also have a very tangible impact on members of the public.”
After being awarded the prestigious SPFS, one might have expected ASP Poh to study something relevant to his eventual career, such as criminology or forensic science. However, the scholar chose differently.
Yu Quan firmly believes that policing is something learnt on the ground, and that there is no course of study or major that can teach it. “The closest thing is a degree in criminology, but by that argument, all police officers would need to do a degree in criminology,” he opines.
Instead, the scholarship gave him the opportunity to study things that fascinated him, without the constraint of having to apply those subjects to a career later. He had always been interested in complex systems, and figuring things out, so that led him to his original interests - Biomedical Sciences and Social Sciences.
However, he discovered many parallels between his studies and the work at SPF. The complexity of the human body, with so many different parts and organs functioning together in complex ways, was similar to a police operation, where units, officers, and commanders had to move in concert to achieve a desired result. Thus, the systematical thinking he learnt during his bachelor’s programme was deeply relevant to his work in police operations. Similarly, his studies in Social Sciences taught him to deal with datasets and analysis, which he found applicable when identifying crime trends.
“When I chose my majors, it was really about what transferrable skills I could learn, and what soft skills I could apply to my job,” he concludes.
United in Purpose
Having been an IO for roughly a year, ASP Poh can attest to the rigorous, dynamic nature of the work, as well as the sense of purpose that comes with the important task of keeping Singapore safe.
Recounting a gruelling 36-hour investigation, ASP Poh highlights how it was the deep bond between all SPF officers that helped him pull through. “People join for a strong sense of purpose,” he elaborates. “We form very strong bonds; every person I have interacted with has turned into a friend.” In the police force, there are no colleagues, only brothers-in-arms who are united in their mission.
This is important as the environment is unpredictable and potentially dangerous. “Trust in each other ensures we can perform our job to the best of our abilities,” ASP Poh explains.
The Cadet of the Future
For those that are interested in joining the Force, and perhaps getting awarded the SPFS, it is a good idea to follow in ASP Poh’s footsteps. Taking many attachments in different areas of police work will give you a good idea if this is the career for you, and introduce you to the many aspects of this multifaceted organisation.
“If you’re looking for a career that is dynamic in nature, and one that brings you into the heat of the situation, then SPF is the organisation for you,” recommends ASP Poh.