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This STEM ace is the brain behind these new crime-fighting machines

Photo Caption: Among all the other scholarships available, the SPFS stood out to DSP Poh Yu Quan for its outstanding developmental road maps for scholars.

Mention the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the image of a valiant ground officer comes to mind. 

Yet, beyond the public-facing officers on the frontline, there are many other essential roles within the SPF to help keep Singapore safe. The SPF welcomes a wide variety of talents, and scholarship recipients are free to pursue a degree of their choice. 

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Poh Yu Quan, the man behind the SPF’s latest police technology and weapons, is one such scholar. As the holder of a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science as well as a master’s in data science, his qualifications may seem at odds with policing work at first. 

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ace initially planned to study medicine but chose to become a police officer as he wanted a more dynamic career. He signed up for The Singapore Police Force Scholarship (The SPFS) in 2012 and pursued his first love – biomedical science – at Imperial College London. 

“The biomedical science field is extremely complex and there are new developments all the time,” he says. “Studying the human body with its multiple moving parts and reactions as they interact trained me to apply systems thinking at a much higher level, a skill which I rely on in many aspects of police work. “The study of biomedical science also honed my analytical and scientific thinking; skills which are very much applicable and transferable to various job scopes.” 



In his current posting as an Operations Officer in the Operations Department of the Frontline Policing Division (FPD), DSP Poh has serendipitously found his place in the SPF working with policing technology, which aligns with his STEM interests. 

He conceptualises, procures and develops major capabilities such as the Next-Generation Fast Response Car and the Glock-19 Gen 5 Pistol – technologies that ensure front-line officers are equipped with the right tools to carry out their jobs effectively. “My main responsibility is to ensure they have the best tech and weapons to defend themselves and protect others from harm,” says DSP Poh. 

His exciting role encompasses the entire project’s life cycle, ranging from coordinating meetings with external vendors and agencies (especially the Home Team Science and Tech Agency (HTX), one of SPF’s closest partners) to visiting workshops or ground units to assess prototypes or production units. 

DSP Poh is also involved with strategic planning work such as the rationalisation of the SPF’s vehicle fleet and front-line policies. For instance, he is involved in discussions with various units to align the way they deal with firearms. His work helps to empower frontline officers with the right processes to ensure that statutory powers conferred upon law enforcement officers are not abused, and that they are able to carry out their duties in a professional manner. 

Conceptualising new tech and fine-tuning policies actually complement each other, DSP Poh adds. It informs him what kind of new capabilities his unit needs to develop to ensure that the SPF adapts to the changing demands of both environment and terrain. 

“It brings me great joy when new SPF capabilities are implemented,” he says. “There is also immense satisfaction when ground officers provide positive feedback about the utility gained.” 


Of all the scholarship options available, DSP Poh thinks The SPFS – which is awarded by the Public Service Commission (PSC) – offers one of the best developmental road maps for scholars. 

Besides the opportunity to study at world-renowned institutions abroad, The SPFS has a strong nexus to the wider public service. The connections DSP Poh has made outside of the SPF has helped him to understand how his work in law enforcement ties in with other facets of the public service, such as social services and economic stability. 

SPF management is also very supportive of scholarship recipients, giving them opportunities to rotate among different units so that they can gain a well-rounded experience. Since DSP Poh joined the SPF in 2017, he has undertaken at least seven roles, including being a Ground Response Force Officer at Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre and an Investigation Officer at Central Division. 

Scholars are also mentored by senior management staff, which not only propels their professional development but also allows them to gain a more macro perspective on prevailing issues. Even when Covid-19 cases surged and officers had to work from home, DSP Poh notes that scholars enjoyed more opportunities, compared with before the pandemic, to interact with senior management via virtual dialogue sessions and webinars. 


As a front-line organisation, the SPF has had to quickly adapt to changes in rules and regulations needed to control the spread of Covid-19. “Daily life changed very quickly. One moment, the malls and streets became empty when people were confined at home; the next moment, there was a lot more footfall around Singapore. The influx of foreigners was also contingent upon rapidly evolving travel policies,” observes DSP Poh. 

These constant fluctuations in human traffic meant that the SPF had to swiftly adjust how its officers were deployed to enforce law and order. Some level of predictive analysis has to be performed in order to develop agile deployment plans that could change according to demands on the ground. 

This is where DSP Poh puts his skills in data science to work. He utilises analytical tools and government data sets to visualise crime trends and derive meaningful predictions to preempt criminal activities. 

There are times when DSP Poh finds himself feeling overwhelmed by the endless disruptions caused by Covid-19. However, he always finds an inner strength to bounce back. To unwind, he exercises regularly, and loves rock climbing and running. He also spends his off days with family and friends to recharge. 

“Getting back up and coming back stronger has been humbling,” he says. “I have learnt to keep an open mind toward learning new things so I can better myself for the next challenge.”

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