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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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Gigabit broadband voucher scheme boost for Wales

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THE UK’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is to be given a boost in Wales thanks to a new partnership between the Welsh and UK Governments. Ministers from both Governments are now urging Welsh businesses and communities to apply for the funding to get gigabit speeds.

The announcement follows an agreement between the UK and Welsh Governments, and reflects the higher costs of deploying fibre infrastructure in Wales, as a result of the country’s topography and the location of premises.

The UK Government’s Gigabit broadband vouchers – worth up to £2500 – are currently available to small businesses and surrounding local communities to contribute to the installation costs of a gigabit-capable broadband connection.

Under the new arrangements, the Welsh Government will provide an additional £3,000 for businesses up to a certain size and an additional £300 per residential property. This means that for group* projects in Wales up to £5,500 is available per business, compared with £2,500 elsewhere in the UK. Up to £800 will now be available per residential property in Wales, compared with £500 elsewhere.

Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters said: “Although the vast majority of premises in Wales can now access superfast broadband, we are working hard on assisting the remaining five per cent that cannot access it and where commercial companies have no plans to reach. There is no one size fits all solution to reach the final premises, and the Gigabit Broadband Voucher scheme is an important part of a suite of measures to achieve this.

“This voucher scheme can provide a vital funding source for group connectivity projects, and could be of great benefit to communities currently without access.
I’m pleased we’ve been able to work with the UK Government to provide an enhanced scheme for Wales, taking into account the particular challenges we face here with geography and the location of premises.”

UK Minister for Digital Margot James said: “This exclusive scheme for Welsh businesses and communities is a vital part of our modern Industrial Strategy and build a Britain that is fit for the future. Working with the Welsh Government, together we can make sure that everyone in Wales has the connectivity they need for the digital age.”

The voucher scheme forms part of a package aimed at improving connectivity in Wales. The Welsh and UK Government funded £200 million Superfast Cymru programme has already taken superfast broadband speeds to more than 733,000 Welsh homes and businesses commercial companies had no plans to cover. The Welsh Government is also investing a further £22.5 million to reach an additional 26,000 premises and the UK Government is introducing a Universal Service Obligation** that will make fast broadband a legal right for every home and business in Wales by 2020.

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Rescuers attend to injured construction workers in New Dock Street

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A MULTI AGENCY rescue operation is underway in Llanelli involving all three emergency services after an incident at a construction site.

Workers have been at the New Dock Street site, working for around three years, The Herald understands.

The Herald has been told that a piece of plant malfunctioned causing the emergency, which happened earlier this evening (Mar 19).

Four fire engines and three ambulances are at the scene, our reporter said.

A specialist line rescue team is involved in the recovery operation.

An eye-witness told the press that three workers have been affected.

The source said: “Concrete had just been mixed and had been poured into a skip which was then lifted using a machine. The concrete was being lowered into the hole, it’s probably about 20ft and then the machine toppled over.”

He added: “Two men climbed out of the hole on their own and as a precaution the third man was told to stay down there. The workers were told to leave the site as a precaution.”

At least one person has been seen being taken away in an ambulance.

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Llanelli: Met Bar incident investigated

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AN INCIDENT which resulted in a 51-year old man having to go hospital is being investigated by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The man has been discharged from Glangwili Hospital but police are looking in to how the incident happened and how the man fell down some steps.

The incident happened outside the Met Bar in Llanelli on Saturday night (Mar 16).

A spokeswoman for Dyfed-Powys Police told the Herald: “At approximately 10.55pm on Saturday March 16, officers responded to reports of an injured man outside The Met Bar, Station Road, Llanelli, after he’d fallen down some steps at the location.

“Ambulance was at scene, and the 51 year old man was conveyed to Glangwili Hospital with what was thought to have been a serious head injury. He was then later discharged from hospital, and the head injury was no longer believed to be serious.”
Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact police by calling 101 and quoting DPP/3011/16/03/2019/02/C. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908

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