From hunting down loan sharks in heartland towns to being in the thick of international diplomacy, DAC Teo’s decade-long career at Singapore Police Force (SPF) has been both action-packed and rewarding.
There is hardly ever a dull day with each day bringing a new challenge and a new adventure.
Currently Deputy Commander at Woodlands Police Division, DAC Teo lists some of the different roles he had taken on over the past 10 years – Investigation Officer at the Central Police Division, Commanding Officer of Toa Payoh Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) and Special Assistant to the Minister for Home Affairs. Each of his posting serves the same purpose: To uphold the law and keep our homes safe.
During his posting as a Commanding Officer to the Toa Payoh NPC, one of the daunting tasks before him was to curb loan shark harassment. DAC Teo could still recall the red paint splashed on the doors of the victims and the graffiti scrawled on the walls.
He recounted how he and his teammates had to ambush the law-breakers and install police cameras in HDB buildings, among other ways to aid investigations and deter crime. Law enforcement efforts against unlicensed moneylending and loan shark activities subsequently brought down the number of loan shark harassment cases.
“I witnessed amazing teamwork and resourcefulness by my colleagues. They worked tirelessly to keep loan shark harassment cases at bay,” he says.
Like all new recruits, DAC Teo was sent for training in areas such as criminal law, police defensive tactics and investigations at the Training Command (TRACOM) at the Home Team Academy right after graduation.
Following the 10-month training from 2008 to 2009, he was posted to the Central Police Division as an Investigation Officer. There, he served at the frontlines where he interacted with people from all walks of life – victims, witnesses and even suspects of crime. The exposure prepared him for bigger roles in the police force.
In three years, he rose through the ranks to become Commanding Officer of Toa Payoh NPC, a role that encompassed frontline, operational and leadership responsibilities.
Today, DAC Teo oversees staff and support for policing in the northern parts of Singapore.
“As Deputy Commander, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of how the corporate service functions play a critical role in supporting our officers at the frontlines,” he says.
Having been at the frontlines himself, DAC Teo can relate to officers on the ground. He also understands the importance of training and logistical support and ensures they receive the best of both. “This will aid and encourage them to perform their duties to the best of their abilities,” he says.
“As a leader in the SPF, I take pride in my responsibility of leading fellow police officers well as they safeguard the people of Singapore,” he adds.
“I hope to have the opportunity to become Commander of a Police Division in the near future. As Commander, you are placed in charge of some 1,000 officers and are in a unique position to make a difference through service and leadership.”
Rooted in public service
DAC Teo’s interest to serve in the police force was nurtured when he joined the Boys’ Brigade in school. Being in the uniformed group co-curricular activity for six years instilled in him a spirit of service that remains today.
“The camaraderie and ethos of the SPF were familiar and resonated with me. I wanted a career that would be both exciting and meaningful. A policing career fits the bill perfectly,” he says.
Being awarded the SPF Scholarship in 2003 enabled him to study abroad to delve deeper into Physics, his favourite subject in junior college. He pursued a Bachelor of Science in Physics at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, followed by a Master in Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
While studying Physics, the intellectual rigour for the subject trained valuable analytical thinking skills that are crucial for his roles in the SPF. They included brainstorming for solutions to deal with current heartland issues such as phone scams, and tackle challenges on the organisational level.
His learning journey did not stop there. During a one-and-a-half-year stint as Special Assistant to the Minister for Home Affairs in 2015, he had the opportunity to witness decision-making at the highest level of government, alongside Cabinet ministers and foreign stakeholders.
This unique experience motivated him to better understand how the private sector operates and how countries interact.
The keen learner now holds two more degrees — a Master of Business Administration from Wharton School and a Master of Arts in International Studies from Lauder Institute, after spending two years at the University of Pennsylvania under an SPF Postgraduate Scholarship.
“I’m grateful to the SPF for providing me with such opportunities to develop myself,” he says.
Had it not for the scholarship, he probably would not be able to find such a fulfilling career in the public sector. Yet it is the small things that reaffirm his desire to serve.
“Being able to receive the smallest response, such as a smile or a word of thanks, made the job worth it,” he says. “Even after 10 years in the SPF, I have no doubt that a public service career is best suited for me.”
“The sense of mission and purpose is irreplaceable.”