Stories from 200 years of law and order in Singapore | The A List
Discover 200 years of stories behind the evolution of the Singapore Police Force at The SPF200 Exhibition: Frontier Town to Safest City. (Photo: Victoria Loh)

Stories from 200 years of law and order in Singapore | The A List

Crossing paths with a policeman is not something one usually looks forward to, unless stuck in a situation requiring law and order to be upheld. At an exhibition about the 200 year-history of the Singapore Police Force, however, you would be glad if you ran into one of them.

The SPF 200 Exhibition: Frontier Town to Safest City, held at the National Museum of Singapore, commemorates the police force’s bicentennial anniversary. It highlights key milestones in the first hundred years of the Force, and how it evolved into a 15, 000-strong uniformed organisation today.

The exhibition offers twice daily guided tours led by retired policemen and policewomen – a treat for visitors. The volunteer docents bring to life the exhibition through personal anecdotes and first-hand stories about safeguarding Singapore. On our visit earlier this month, we had the good fortune of having former deputy superintendent Chan Soo Wah as our guide.

Here are some things that piqued our interest at the exhibition:

The letter that started it all
The Singapore Police Force was the brainchild of Singapore’s first Resident, William Farquhar. Its conception can be traced back to correspondence from November 1819 between Farquhar and the founder of modern Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles, and those letters are on display on the show. The very first team of policemen was formed in May 1820 and it comprised 12 men.

The changing sound of the police
It wasn’t just their uniformed that changed – from khaki to navy blue, and long shorts to trousers. The way the police announces their arrival on scene has also evolved, from using rattles, gongs and whistles to sirens today. You can hear the rattles and gongs used by the police in the early 1900s in the exhibition.

Secret society weapons
Secret societies caused major turmoil in the 1950s and they frequently fought against the police with lethal weapons. Some secret society members even owned guns that were bigger and more powerful than those of the police. The Arms Offences Act enacted by the Government in 1973 put an end to the unlawful possession, carrying and use of arms. Some of those weapons though, can be seen in the exhibition.

Stories of courage
Be inspired by stories of bravery, including that of the late Halford Boudewyn, a Eurasian police officer who risked his life to pass on classified information about Japan’s military plans during World War II. Also, not to be missed – the dramatic story of policeman Anthony Low’s encounter with a bank robber during a shoot-out in 1974. He was conferred the Police Gallantry Medal by then President Benjamin Sheares for his cool-headed handling of the matter.

Details about SPF200: Frontier Town to Safest City here.

In view of the COVID-19 situation, if you are unwell, do avoid public spaces and contact with others, and seek medical attention. Let us continue to maintain good personal hygiene, stay healthy, keep calm and look after one another.

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