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Flashback! 1976, 1980, 1986, 1990, 1996 ...
Police Life Monthly - August 1996
20th Anniversary Special

The Police Journal
A little over twenty years ago, there was no such publication as Police Life. There was something called the Police Journal that had been around since the 50’s but it appeared infrequently and gradually ceased publication.

Police Life
Commissioner Goh Yong Hong in 1976 proposed the creation of a regular magazine that would not only help explain management policies to the officers on the ground but would also chronicle important events in the police’s professional and social calendar.

Input from the professionals
The job of co-ordinating the project fell to ASP (resigned) Daniel Tan. Daniel had had no experience in magazine production and had no staff he could turn to for such specialised support. But he knew that there were bound to be some part-time National Servicemen with the right qualifications and experience he could use, whose talents were not being fully used in routine duties such as patrolling.

A check through PNS records showed that there were quite a number of such officers around. Terry Ang, currently a Strait Times sub-editor was one of these.

“I was on beat duty, doing about four hours a week,” recalls Terry. “When I was approached to join the Public Relations Department (now the PAD) to do magazine work, I jumped at the opportunity.”

A formidable team

When Terry came on board the editorial team, he was pleasantly surprised to see many of his peers there. One such person was Herbert Teo, now a consultant with Hains Marketing Communications in Australia. Herbert, who had by then established a reputation locally as an ace reporter with the afternoon paper the Malay mail (which was eventually to become the New Paper) had until then been serving part-time NS as a drill sergeant in the Police Academy.

It’s out!

The first issue of Police Life made its debut as a bi-monthly on 11 August 1976. It was slim, black and white issue with a colour cover. It was a hundred per cent homemade product in which a team of mostly professional journalists wrote the articles, sub-edited them, designed the pages, drew the illustrations, even took photographs and laid the pages. With a low budget to work with, they were not able to afford top quality paper or fancy printing but what they lacked in financial resources they made more than made up for in the level of journalism.

V/Insp Yap Boh Tiong, currently a managing director of a PR company Mileage Communications recalls that the team worked in a highly informal fashion. He recalls that Clement Mesenas, a veteran journalist, was an associate editor on the team then. The team used to meet in Clement’s office to brainstorm ideas for the new issue. Arranging to meet was no easy matter – all the team members worked in different places at different times and trying to schedule meetings was a complex business.

The editorial team expanded rapidly as other qualified media men joined its ranks. At its peak, it engaged two editors, three sub-editors, six reporters, a graphic artist, a paste – up artists and photographer, as well a coordinator and support staff. At least six of the editorial team were professional journalists.

Manpower restraints

As manpower became scarce through the years, regular police personnel who had been involved with Police Life were deployed to other departments. The magazine had begun to generate funding through advertising so editing, design and layout were farmed out to a private design company.

The next major step in the evolution of Police Life came when it switched to partial colour and then to full colour. By this time, the editorial team had no professionals except for the editor and designer- the NS journalists had been replaced by young school leavers doing full- time police NS.

The young PNS writers lacked experience but were keen to learn and enthusiastic. Its was this energy and the support shown by management that helped Police Life reach its pinnacle of achievement – it won the National Productivity Board Award for best in –house newsletter for five years in succession until the awards were discontinued.

Mission unstoppable
Today, in line with the SPF’s policy of optimising manpower resources, Police Life engages a small team of regulars and PNS officers, a fraction the size of the original team. But improved information technology, streamlined procedures, sound management and the unflagging enthusiasm of the present team has ensured that the magazine remains a faithful mirror of Police Life in the day and age.


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