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Chief Constable looks back over four years as a volunteer officer

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WHEN Mark Collins put on his volunteer police uniform for the first time in 1987, he could never have guessed that 29 years later he would be walking through the doors of Dyfed-Powys Police headquarters as the chief constable.

Mr Collins has worked his way up the ranks from a PC to the chief constable, but his policing career actually began as an unpaid officer volunteering his time to the force he now leads.

As the force celebrates National Volunteers Week, Mr Collins looks back over the four years he spent in the Special Constabulary and reveals what the police service gains from its team of volunteer officers.

Inspired in part by conversations with local officers in the Carmarthenshire village he grew up in, and partly from watching dramatic incidents unfold on TV series The Bill, Mr Collins was keen to join the police service as a teenager.

He decided firstly to enrol as a Special Constable so he could gain an insight into the role of a PC, and to find out if it was the right career for him.

“I thought I wanted to be a police officer, but not being from a policing background I wanted to find out what it was really like first,” he said.

“It was great to get in and see how the police worked – the roles and responsibilities of an officer, and the variety of things they dealt with. Having joined as a Special, it made me more hungry to join as a regular officer.”

After completing his initial training, Mr Collins went out on his first patrol shift as a Special Constable, supported by a regular officer.

“I spent my first shift travelling around north Carmarthen with Rhian Thomas, a rural officer, going to a number of calls,” he said.

“One memory that stands out is when we visited an elderly lady just outside Carmarthen. We dealt with some problems she had, and it turned out that she was a lady in her own right. We must have made an impact because she then invited us to a garden party.

“Knowing that you have helped someone is hugely rewarding, and as a Special it meant a lot to receive that invitation.”

A milestone for all officers is making their first arrest, and Mr Collins remembers his clearly. He was called to a report of a theft from a supermarket in Carmarthen, and arrested the culprit on the spot.

But he admits he was feeling a mixture of emotions as he put his training into practice.

“I was excited, but also nervous and anxious,” he said. “Was I going to get it right? Was I going to present the evidence to the custody sergeant correctly? It was a big deal, and something I definitely didn’t want to get wrong.”

Considering the perception of Specials, Mr Collins said a lot had changed over the years, with people’s attitudes towards volunteer officers becoming more positive, and more opportunities being opened up to volunteer officers.

Specials at Dyfed-Powys Police have worked on a mental health triage team, established the Specials on horseback scheme, and piloted a joint response unit with the Wales Ambulance Service over the Christmas period when demand increases on both services.

“If I’m honest, the training for Specials in the 80s wasn’t that good, and the support wasn’t that good,” Mr Collins said. “Regulars used to call them hobby bobbies back in the day, and they would only attend fetes and carnivals. You would occasionally get to walk the beat, but you didn’t have all the kit and equipment that we have now.

“We have moved on so much. We have a rank structure within the Special Constabulary, Specials are on the frontline with the same powers as fully warranted officers; they are better equipped; they carry out stop searches and warrants; and play an important part in policing operations.

“We recognise the specialist skills people can bring in from other jobs and the qualities they can bring to the force without needing to join as regular officers.”

Specials must be aged over 18, and must commit to a minimum of 16 hours each month to the force. While Mr Collins accepts that for many it is a way in to the police service, he would like to see more people apply with the aim of becoming ‘career Specials’ – those who are happy to continue as volunteers alongside their day-to-day roles.

“I would like people to see it as a way of supporting their communities, rather than as part of an aspiration to join the police service,” he said.

“It is a chance to do something different. There is so much reality TV, things like 24 Hours in Police Custody and Police Interceptors, and people are drawn in by the cut and thrust of policing – the fast response, blue lights flashing side of things.

“But policing isn’t all about that – there are the 2am patrols, traumatic incidents like attending sudden deaths or collisions, breaking the news that loved ones have passed away. Specials get the chance to dip into all that without giving up their day jobs.”

“For me, volunteering as a Special was the start of my policing career.

“Putting on your uniform for the first time is quite something, and it was a proud moment for both me and my family. And while I joined with aspirations of becoming a regular officer and a detective, never did I think when I walked through the doors of headquarters for the first time that I would walk back in 29 years later as the chief constable.”

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Drakeford confirmed as First Minister

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MARK DRAKEFORD was confirmed as the new First Minister after a vote in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Carmarthen-born Drakeford succeeds Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader, after Jones resigned on Tuesday.

Mr Drakeford, 64, has styled himself as a ’21st Century socialist’, and throughout his leadership campaign promoted continuity and stability as a candidate, having worked as a Welsh Government special advisor under Rhodri Morgan and being the only Welsh Government cabinet minister to support Jeremy Corbyn when he ran for the UK Labour leadership in 2015.

The AM for Cardiff West has been in the Assembly since 2011, becoming Health Minister in 2013 before becoming Finance Secretary in 2016.

Mr Drakeford grew up in Carmarthen, and was educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys. He then went on to study Latin at the University of Kent, before working as a probation officer and Barnardos project leader in west Cardiff.

Mr Drakeford went on to pursue a career in academia, lecturing at Swansea University, and then becoming a professor of social policy and applied social sciences at Cardiff University.

His first experience of electoral politics was as a councillor on the old South Glamorgan County Council, before serving the Cardiff ward of Pontcanna between 1985 and 1993.

Mr Drakeford was one of the two candidates, alongside Eluned Morgan, to have produced a manifesto during the leadership campaign, setting out many of the policies he hopes to introduce. These include an extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas such as restaurants and town centres, the cutting of emissions through greater emphasis on public transport and building on Superfast Cymru – a scheme to rollout 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.

The manifesto also proposed installing drinking fountains across Wales, double allotments, and piloting a ‘baby bundle’ – similar to baby box schemes in other countries with a package of essential items.

Mr Drakeford also suggested introducing a committee to advise the Welsh Government on the Hinckley Point power plant in Somerset, as he has spoken of his scepticism regarding nuclear power.

The new First Minister has also backed proposals put forward by economist Gerry Holtham to fund elderly social care in Wales through a tax. An annual review of PFI contracts across the Welsh public sector would be introduced, and the 22 councils across Wales would be kept as they are.

One issue that has been subject to much debate is the potential for the M4 Relief Road, but Mr Drakeford’s manifesto does not mention it specifically. Instead, it states a commitment to dealing with congestion, citing the A40 in Mid and West Wales, the A55 in the North and the M4 in South Wales.

The other two leadership candidates, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, had both backed another referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU, yet Mr Drakeford is less set on another vote, saying he would only back it should the final deal fail to protect workers’ rights.

As Finance Secretary, Mr Drakeford has been in charge of much of the Welsh Government’s approach towards Brexit so far.

In Wednesday’s vote, Mr Drakeford was backed by 30 AMs, with 12 voting for the Conservatives’ Paul Davies and nine supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

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Are you a £1m Euromillions winner? Time is running out to redeem prize

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A LAST ditch attempt is being made to locate a mystery local winner of an unclaimed £1 million pound lottery ticket.

Time is running out to find the owner of the winning ticket from the Euromillions draw bought in Ceredigion on June 22, 2018 – with Millionaire code MDLG 86259.

The winner has until Wednesday, December 19 to claim their life-changing prize.

Andy Carter, senior winners’ advisor at The National Lottery, said: “Time really is running out for the winner of this prize, but we are still hopeful that someone will come forward to claim the money. We’re urging everyone to check their old tickets or look anywhere a missing EuroMillions ticket could be hiding. This life changing prize could really help to make dreams become a reality.”

If no-one comes forward with the winning ticket before the prize claim deadline, then the prize money, plus all the interest it has generated will go to help National Lottery-funded projects across the UK.

The National Lottery changes the lives of individuals as well as communities – players raise, on average around £30 million for National Lottery-funded projects every week.

Euromillions UK Millionaire Maker creates two UK millionaires in every draw. For every EuroMillions line played, UK players automatically receive a Millionaire Maker Code printed on their ticket.

Ceredigion alone has around 1,675 individual National Lottery grants that have been awarded to help projects across the arts, sports, heritage, health, education, environment, charity and voluntary sectors.

With all National Lottery draws, players only have 180 days from the day of the draw to claim their prize if they have the winning ticket. Anyone who has any queries or who believes they have the winning ticket for any of The National Lottery draws within the 180 day deadline should call the National Lottery line on 0333 234 5050 or email help@national-lottery.co.uk.

Anyone concerned about lost or unchecked tickets may like to consider either setting up a National Lottery Direct Debit or playing online at www.national-lottery.co.uk.

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Free equipment and training for Ceredigion clubs

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TUESDAY (Dec 11) saw the launch of a new partnership between learning technology solution specialists Aspire2Be and six Ceredigion rugby clubs as part of the Scarlets’ Three Counties, Three Years strategy. The initiative, courtesy of Scarlets, invites Ceredigion rugby clubs and schools to participate in a pilot project providing free analysis equipment, software and training worth over £20k.

The initial pilot project will work with Aberystwyth Rugby Football Club and Ysgol Penweddig, with a funding application written for remaining clubs once the pilot is completed. ‘Analyse That’ training with Ysgol Penweddig will take place at Penweddig Comprehensive School the afternoon of Tuesday 11 December, with Aberystwyth RFC having their training in the evening on their home ground too.

The ‘Analyse That’ training programme which is run and designed by Aspire 2Be, and the pilot has been sponsored by the WRW Construction Group, one of Scarlets’ long standing sponsors sponsors, and forms part of Scarlets’ Three Counties, Three Years strategy, where the club is supporting local rugby teams and young talent across Ceredigion.

The campaign was kick started this summer where the Scarlets are making a difference across three participating regions; Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, county by county. Ceredigion will take Year One’s focus with emphasis on strengthening partnerships across local clubs and businesses to make a difference in the region’s wider communities. In addition to local partnerships across Ceredigion, the Scarlets have dedicated their 2018-19 away kit colour scheme to the region featuring its coat of arms, sandy beaches and vivid blue seas.

Part of the Aspire 2Be Team is former Scarlets coach and now leading media pundit, Sean Holley. Sean said on the overall training programme experience: “The modern rugby person now has an increasing awareness of analysis and is more digitally aware.

“The innovative ‘Analyse That’ initiative in collaboration with Aspire2Be now makes it easier and more affordable for community clubs to access what can be an expensive aspect of the game. The Scarlets should be applauded for entering into this partnership and I can’t wait to work with the Ceredigion clubs and schools to help upskill and improve their rugby experience in this initial pilot.”

Digital skill development is very much at the forefront of Scarlets’ Three Counties, Three Years campaign. Rural counties like Ceredigion often suffer from digital exclusion. The Scarlets hope this programme with the Swansea based firm Aspire2Be will help locals acquire digital skills in an engaging way.

Speaking on the benefits this training programme will bring to the community, Dai Rudge of Aberystwyth RFC said: “We are very fortunate that our club can be involved with such an innovative training initiative and partnership with Aspire2Be and the Scarlets.

“It’s great news that the Scarlets recognise a digital skill need in Wales and have partnered up with a Welsh tech company to provide digital opportunities for our rugby community. We’re also grateful to the WRW Construction Group for supporting the funding of the pilot.”

Nia Lloyd, Scarlets Community Manager said of the training. “We want all our community teams at every level, to strive to improve performance but in the absence of detailed analysis and feedback protocols being available at each club, a major aid to that improvement is missing.

“Our research leaves us in no doubt how useful these resources would be but few clubs can afford the hardware, the software or the training necessary to provide it. With our Three Counties programme we are hoping that the partnerships that the Scarlets have established between Aspire2Be and WRW Construction Group pave the way for more clubs and schools in the region to experience the exciting and useful analysis equipment and software.”

Those clubs who did not win the £20K prize will be offered the opportunity to send selected members on an exclusive training course free of charge under the guidance of Sean Holley and Aspire2Be. Participants will learn how to obtain additional training and equipment budget to participate in Ceredigion’s growing digital performance analysis community.

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