|Police Life turns 21 this year. Did
you know that over the past 21 years, 252 issues of the magazine have
been published. Also, did you know that when the magazine was launched
in August 1976, it was set up by a motley crew of part-time National
This group was brought together because of their talents in related
fields. Editor Siva Choy, together with current writers Jason Chua,
Tan Seng Teck and Nisar Keshvani, met up with the pioneers of the
1976 team to reflect on its birth, growth and achievements.
As the pioneers arrived for the "get-together" session,
it was like a bunch of old friends coming together for a reunion.
Jokes and banter were hurled across the room freely. When they finally
calmed down, a very heartfelt yet jovial reminiscing episode followed.
||Right from the start, our objectives
To compile the rich history of the Singapore Police Force
as seen through the eyes of Police Life Monthly (PLM). Why compile
SPF's history and why through Police Life?
Ever since SPF was officially formed, only one book has been written
- "In the Service of the Nation". Just as that book traced
history, the Commemorative Book presents milestones and human interest
stories that reveal the attitudes of officers during those times.
Each time we flipped through past issues of PLM,we gained insights
into the colourful history of the Force so we figured it was only
logical for us to put together this monumental chronicle.
Unfortunately we could only start from 1976 as that was when Police
Life was officially launched. We put this idea across to Deputy Director
Public Affairs Department, DSP Chin Fook Leong and Asst Dir (Info)
Mr Toh Yong Chuan and together with the blessings of Commissioner
Khoo Boon Hui and Senior Director (Discipline and Public Affairs)
we began the arduous task of compiling the book.
|This was the tough part. In 1976 Police
Life had a unique system of employing NSmen as writers. As such, each
passing issue saw a change in style and flavour. This meant that Police
Life has seen a total of around 190 NSmen as writers since its inauguration.
And this number does not include the co-ordinators of Police Life.
Imagine trying to trace pioneers from 21 years ago with only a name
as a lead. Although all officers are trained in investigation we were
not. And we had to rely on personal sources to trace them. Slowly
we managed to find almost everyone we knew about and invited them
for the function.
"The writers have done an excellent
job in tracing our pioneers. They have gone as far as France tracing
Mr Chandran Nair from UNESCO who used to be a writer in the 70's,"
said Siva Choy in his speech. Aside from compiling the book, we had
to coordinate the function and also a video to launch the book.
"I felt in 1976 that a regular police magazine was a necessity,
not an option. It had to reflect the latest developments
of the Force ...."
-- Retd Commissioner Goh
Retired Commissioner, Mr Goh Yong Hong started the
discussion rolling: "I felt in 1976 that a regular police magazine
was a necessity, not an option. It had to reflect the latest developments
of the Force and give our men a better understanding of the Force's
policies and at the same time highlight recreational and welfare
activities within the Force."
"Such a magazine had the potential to become more than an in-house
chronicle of events - it could ultimately reflect the Force's aspirations
and achievements to the outside world. I entrusted this task to
Daniel Tan, currently with American Express, began the magazine
from scratch with help from his dedicated team of part-time NSmen.
"It was a challenge. I was always keen to work in a creative
field. Though it was far from the conventional policeman's job,
I was excited. To me and I am sure the rest, Police Life was like
our baby and we are proud of it," said Daniel.
He added: "I had barely any publishing experience and an arduous
task ahead. I searched through PNS records and handpicked a team
to help me. The management, especially Mr Goh was very supportive
and we managed to turn the idea into a magazine in a matter of two
months to launch our maiden issue in August 1976."
Before we began shooting our pioneers with questions (which we were
most eager to do) on their feelings today that Police Life has turned
21, Siva and Daniel brought us on a walk down memory lane.
"Until 1976, there had been sporadic attempts to create a police
magazine but these early ad hoc versions of Police Life had been
produced on an "as and when needed" basis," recalled
"The contents, editorial style and design depended on whoever
was in charge of the publication at that moment, there was no consistent
editorial policy and no permanent editorial team to give the magazine
a proper sense of direction," continued Daniel.
"There was a variety of reasons for the lack of interest in
starting a regular police magazine," added Siva, "firstly,
some thought that running a magazine, even though about "policing",
wasn't really a "traditional" police task. Secondly, the
Force had many other more pressing matters to attend to such as
major changes in operations and management.
"Thirdly, even if officers could be spared to run a magazine,
would they be able to produce one of decent standard considering
their lack of journalistic training? How could such a project be
funded? What tangible benefits could it show to justify expenditure?"
revealed Daniel, " these were the worries that went through
management's mind when they contemplated the idea of the magazine."
"However, former Commissioner Mr Goh Yong Hong, who in 1975
was an Assistant Commissioner, saw things in a different light,"
"A regular police magazine would keep officers informed of
developments in other departments, divisions and units, facilitating
a useful exchange of ideas and methods," agreed Siva, "and
the magazine would cover not only professional matters but welfare,
sports, recreation, and personal achievements, it would strengthen
esprit de corps and develop a greater sense of corporate
pride among officers at all levels.
"Lastly, such a magazine would surely become an archive of
the progress and aspirations of the Police Force you can clearly
see today," said Daniel amidst firm nods of approval.
"I searched through PNS records and handpicked a team to help
me. The management, especially Mr Goh was very supportive and we managed
to turn the idea into a magazine in a matter of two months to launch
our maiden issue in August 1976."
-- ASP Daniel Tan
|Finding the talent
Knowing the true background of Police Life now, we queried
how the expertise was sought in order to achieve the magazine's aim.
"This is where my 'true' policing skills came in," joked
Daniel scoured the Special Constabulary personnel records to identify
"media professionals" and was staggered at the wealth of
talent he uncovered.
His list included several professional journalists, a television reporter,
public relations officers with statutory boards and multinational
companies, as well as a press officer with the Ministry of Culture.
"Most of us were pounding the beat when Daniel approached
us to work on this new magazine. He suggested we could contribute
more to the Force by writing, sub-editing or designing for Police
Life. All of us jumped at the opportunity as it was an extension of
our expertise," said Yap Boh Tiong, Managing Director of Mileage
"I was a drill sergeant in Police Academy
then. When serving PAD, all of us had an excellent overview of the
Force, something we never got to see at ground level," added
Herbert Teo, presently with the S-League.
|Finding the money
For every magazine, aside the usual supply of literary talents,
monetary support was also required. This was Daniel's forte, according
to Boh Tiong. "I still remember him always asking for money,"
joked Boh Tiong, "but he always came through with the sufficient
funds for Police Life, without him, Police Life would have been printed
on 11 pieces of photocopied paper."
"He is a remarkable
PR person and had a knack for sourcing advertisers to support our
magazine. Though we barely broke even, it was the support which made
us strive to make Police Life the best. We carried the process through
from concept to writing to designing to the final printing stages,"
PRD's role in Police Life
According to Daniel, as the PRD was the leading authority
on publicity and had the most experience dealing with publications,
it was chosen to be the department to spearhead this project. Furthermore,
as the magazine would be addressing Force-wide concerns, its Chairman
would have to be someone from the highest echelons.
Subsequently, a Management Committee was set up headed by Deputy Commissioner
Mr V N Ratna Singam, with PRD's civilian officer Mr Teo Han Wue as
Advisor and HEO Police HQ Mr Tan Chye Toon as Treasurer. "As
Mr Goh approached me in the first place for this project, I was naturally
chosen for the post of co-ordinator," revealed Daniel proudly.
W/Insp Lucy O Sun was appointed "Inspector Police Life"
and tasked to assist Daniel.
"I am certain each of us has fond memories of working on the
magazine. There was once a few of us were working in the magazine
late one night and I blurted out saying, "What am I doing here?
Its past midnight, its my birthday and I should be with my family!"
recalled Basskaran Nair, Managing Director of Gavin Anderson &
"Yes! Yes! And I said that's a good joke and
in fact it was my birthday. You laughed and we both showed each other
our identity cards and realised neither one of us was lying,"
Siva also shared an experience of his own;
that was bad. Daniel locked me up in a room for an entire night and
forced me to come up with a story."
was I to do. You always said that you were not in the mood to write.
I had to get the story out of you somehow. And I think that piece
you came up with was one of your best," said Daniel.
|11 August 1976
The first issue of Police Life was bi-monthly and was launched
on 11 August 1976. Produced by a huge editorial staff comprising of
an editor, two associate editors, three sub-editors and nine reporters,
the 20-page black-and-white publication with a colour cover carried
25 articles and 40 photographs.
Its mix of contents set a precedent that has been followed till today
- it covered divisional events, manpower and personnel issues, sports,
births and deaths, items of historical interest, NS, crime prevention,
overseas postings, community projects, health matters and even NPCC
"Police Life is back on the scene after
an absence of nearly three years. This time we are back to stay,"
its founders declared proudly and prophetically in its first editorial.
The first issue of Police Life was bi-monthly and was launched on
11 August 1976. Produced by a huge editorial staff comprising of an
editor, two associate editors, three sub-editors and nine reporters,
the 20-page black-and-white publication with a colour cover carried
25 articles and 40 photographs.
"Though I have
had many memorable experiences with Police Life, I am certain that
everybody who has worked on Police Life would, like me, have felt
proud when the magazine won the National Productivity Board award
for best in-house newsletter not just once but five times in a row
from 1987 and 1991. This achievement was all the more remarkable considering
that PLM competed with organizations with far better resources,"
said Mr Goh.
As Siva revealed, Police Life's outstanding achievement has always
been its energetic and resourceful staff members, who have produced
miracles even though they did not have resources other agencies enjoyed.
Success begets success
By the end of the gathering, all our questions needed no
answers. For one thing was certain, the pride and dedication these
men had in Police Life was clear.
So strong was their dedication that till today, all of them still
keep tabs on the magazine. "I look forward to my issue of Police
Life every month," revealed Basskaran, "in fact I noticed
that there was a period when the issues were rather late, that is,
till last year." "I noticed that too," added Boh Tiong,
"but it soon started to arriving promptly and with more juicy
articles too, I guess the magazine was going through a phase of upgrading."
Furthermore, Basskaran and Boh Tiong still serve on the Police Life
Committee. "I still try to help out as often as I can, after
all, we started it." "I agree," added Boh Tiong. "I
am still interested in the workings of Police Life till today."
Perhaps Mr Goh's words aptly sum up Police Life's future:
"I retired as Commissioner feeling that Police Life had succeeded
in achieving its objectives. As far back as 1976, we had been convinced
that modernising in-house capabilities for information dissemination
would make us a more effective organisation.
That belief has become even more apparent today, and the appearance
of Police Life on the World Wide Web reflects the Force's continuing
concern with enhancing its mass communication capabilities. Today
Police Life Monthly and Annual play complementary roles and I understand
Police Life Weekly was recently launched. I look forward to reading
of even greater developments in the coming years."
As the conversation between the pioneer team and us unfolded, we discovered
a strange phenomenon. These people, who have succeeded in life, still
have a very personal attachment to the magazine. It is indeed strange
that these people, who are icons in the public relations, journalistic
and business circles, would still want to be associated with Police
A sign of impending greatness on the part of Police Life? Or are they
just too reluctant to let go of their links with perhaps the very
first publication they worked on? Whatever it is, we know one thing
for sure, the dedication these men had in Police Life was crystal
clear. This dedication has kept Police Life going for the past 21
years and this dedication will continue to make Police Life a special
magazine that truly belongs to all officers of the Singapore Police