No ordinary officer
ASP Koh is no ordinary officer, and the numerous certificates
and commendations highlighting his bravery on his office walls say
As a newcomer to the Force, I had only heard tales of the man. Many
told me he was greatly feared by criminals in the '80s and that
he was one of the toughest men in the Police Tactical Team (PTT),
now known as STAR. Stories had it that he never baulked at confronting
criminals in armed combat and that he even patrolled the grounds
in the middle of the night in full battle gear.
ASP Koh laughs it all off. "It's true I am a perfectionist
and demand the best from my men but I am just an ordinary person,
and I don't know where all those stories come from," he says.
"Yes, I did face situations in which some officers would have
gone weak in the knees. If I said I was not afraid then, I would
be a liar. But I guess it's the training that steels your nerves,"
He recalls how, during a hostage situation in a bus, two gunmen
seized two ladies and shot the bus driver. ASP Koh had three seconds
to make his decision and from a distance of 40 - 50 feet, he immobilised
the gunman. The bullet hit the windscreen, split into two and struck
the gunman in the arm and the core of the bullet injured his chest.
"I guess luck was not on his side," ASP Koh said wryly.
ASP Koh joined the Force as a constable on April 16, 1962 and served
at Geylang Police Station. He later moved on to the Police Coast
Guard and then to his legendary stint with the PTT. During the early
days, the Police Tactical Team was a motley crew of officers from
the 8 troops in SOC, a band of volunteers who served even on their
off days for a monthly allowance of $50. "My success was due
to these volunteers. We were like family and I gave them fatherly
advice when I could," said ASP Koh.
Leading by example
Presently he is OC Operations and Fitness at the Academy.
A staunch believer in the philosophy of leading by example, ASP
Koh has always encouraged esprit de corps among his officers.
"I believe a policeman's life is very precious. If anyone has
to die it should be me. A commander's responsibility is to ensure
that every person is accounted for and no unnecessary risk is taken,"
says ASP Koh.
A softer side
As the interview unfolded, I discovered a softer side to ASP Koh.
He dotes on his children and grandchildren and dedicates much time
His other two loves are singing and fishing. And he also has a special
love for animals. The Police Academy's precious cats, fishes and
aviary birds are maintained by him and he takes special care of
the pond outside the PA Mess.
I remember trainers warning us as we cleaned the pond that if any
one of the fishes died, our fate would lie in the hands of ASP Koh.
When I told ASP Koh of this, he laughed.
Making toughness a tradition
But ASP Koh really is a tough character. Says Course Manager
SSgt Eric Phoon, his former colleague at PTT: "Even though
we were not professionals in those days, he would practise new rapelling
techniques on his own. I remember once after we came back from a
Commando course, we showed him and he did it without a second thought.
He has suffered numerous injuries in his time, and recently went
for an operation."
The toughness seems to run in the family for ASP Koh. One of his
two sons is a Major with the SAF Commandos Unit. The other left
the Red Berets after his NS.
When asked if his children were proud of him and if their friends
knew about his illustrious career, he said: "Of course, they
are proud, just as I am proud of them and I believe their friends
have heard of me because I have worked with some of their colleagues
too. Our paths cross, but I guess that is part of life."
Well, with men like them around, ASP Koh's legacy will definitely