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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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Life saving medical kit for police on the roads

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POLICE officers have been given equipment that improves the chance of survival for those injured in a serious crash, as part of Dyfed-Powys Police’s effort to reduce the number of people who die on the roads.

The medical kits are being given to roads policing officers, who are often the first at the scene of a serious crash. They are described as the best available to deal with the type of bleeding they encounter at road traffic collisions, and also in the case of knife and glass wounds, and are the same as those issued to ambulance crews.

Sergeant Owen Dillon, of Brecon Roads Policing Unit, worked with the Welsh Ambulance Service to trial the kit, which he has called ‘simple to use, but effective’.

He said: “We work really hard to reduce the number of collisions on the roads, but unfortunately they do still happen, and people can become seriously injured.”

“It only takes a few minutes for someone to bleed to death, so it’s vital that police officers – who are often first at scene – can deal quickly with any bleeding while waiting for paramedics.”

The equipment has been bought with funding of around £1,000 from the Police and Crime Commissioner. Traffic officers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys will keep the equipment in their patrol cars.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn, added: “Keeping people safe is a top priority for me and this investment will equip officers with the best medical kit possible to deal with immediate life threatening injuries. I am committed to ensuring Dyfed-Powys plays an active role in keeping road users safe.”

Police officers are already trained to use tourniquets and bandages, and the Roads Policing Units who work as part of Op Darwen – the force’s campaign to reduce casualties on the roads – are being given the additional training they need to use this equipment.

Figures show that in 2018, 67 motorcyclists were either killed or seriously injured on roads in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, and men were eight times more likely to be affected than women.

The Welsh Ambulance Service is committed to working in partnership with other emergency services to save lives.

Carl Powell, Clinical Support Officer for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “It is vital that Roads Policing Officers, who are often the first on scene and confronted with serious and life threatening injuries, are supported in preserving life with equipment that is effective in dealing with major bleeding.

“The trauma packs are a proven lifesaving asset and need minimal educational input to be used.”

As part of the Op Darwen, the force is urging motorcyclists to ride safely, and reminding drivers to be vigilant to motorbikes and other powered two-wheelers.

The campaign will run until October, when statistics say the roads are busiest. Roads Policing Units are working across the Dyfed-Powys Police area using a combination of education, engagement and enforcement, to reduce the number of casualties on the roads.

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Trimsaran: Male arrested on suspicion of terror offences

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OFFICERS from the Welsh Extremism Counter Terrorist Unit (WECTU) have arrested a 57-year-old-man at a property in Trimsaran on Tuesday, June 11.

Armed officers from WECTU, supported by officers from Dyfed Powys Police, attended the property to execute a search warrant.

After finding chemicals at the property, Police arrested the as-yet-unnamed man on suspicion of offences relating to being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

The man remains in police custody, while officers continue their investigations at the property, which remains cordoned off.

A spokeswoman for the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit said there was no risk to neighbouring properties.

She said: “Officers from the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU) supported by Dyfed Powys Police executed a search warrant at an address in the Trimsaran area on Tuesday, June 11.

“A specialist search continues after chemicals were found at the premises and a cordon remains in place. Armed officers were also deployed as a precaution to ensure the safety of officers and the public.

“A 57-year-old man was arrested as a result of the initial search on Tuesday. He remains in custody on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, under section 41 of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000.”

Counter-Terrorism Policing and UK intelligence services have foiled 19 attack plots since March 2017 and are currently running nearly 800 live investigations.

In a statement on the UK’s level of preparedness made on Friday, June 14, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the UK’s Senior National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, said: “Counter-Terrorism Policing and UK intelligence services have foiled 19 attack plots since March 2017 and that we are currently running nearly 800 live investigations, it clearly shows that the UK is still facing an unprecedented level of threat from terrorism.”

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Bridgend Ford plant closing next year with loss of 1700 jobs

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FORD’S engine plant in Bridgend – which has been operational since 1977 – will close in September next year, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

The site employs workers from across South Wales, with many more people employed by companies that supply both goods and services to the plant.

Trade union leaders were told the news on Thursday (Jun 6) morning at a meeting at Ford’s Essex headquarters. The company is believed to have pointed at Bridgend’s coast disadvantage in comparison with other sites. Plans are said to include redeployment of employees to other Ford sites.

GMB, the union for Ford workers in Bridgend, has reacted with shock to the announcement, with Regional Organiser Jeff Beck saying: “We’re hugely shocked by today’s announcement, it’s a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend.
“Regardless of today’s announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh Government to find a solution to the issue and mitigate the effects of this devastating news.
“What makes it worse is Donald Trump is in this country talking about a possible trade deal between the UK and the US – yet when the plant closes the new line is likely to be produced in

Mexico by an American company. So much for the special relationship Mr Trump.”

This comes after an investigation by GMB revealed Wales has lost 13,000 manufacturing jobs in just 10 years. The statistics were released ahead of GMB’s Annual Congress, which begins in Brighton on Sunday (Jun 9). They show 13,000 jobs in the sector disappeared between 2008 and 2018 – a fall of nearly 8%. In 2008, Wales supported 168,000 permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs. By 2018, that had slumped to just 155,000.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Business, Russell George AM, said: “After an extended difficult period of uncertainty for workers in Bridgend, today’s announcement was the last news we were hoping for.

Illustrative image of a Ford Logo, Cambridge,. (Photo by: Newscast/UIG via Getty Images)

“The Welsh Government must act swiftly now to support the workers of the area, and to reassure the world that Wales continues to be a place of automotive excellence.
“With the Bridgend site closing in late 2020 the next step is to attract new business opportunities to the area for these skilled workers.”
Suzy Davies, AM for South Wales West, said: “This is terrible news for the employees of Bridgend Ford and is a devastating blow for the whole area.
“It is crucial today that appropriate support is made available for affected employees during this difficult time. My thoughts are with the families involved, and I intend to extend my full support to those in need throughout the coming months.
“I implore the Welsh Government to do everything within its power to ensure retraining is available to these extremely skilled workers, and to help them find alternative employment with the utmost urgency.”

The plant’s closure come just months after Ford revealed that it would cut the site’s workforce by 370, in the first phase of almost 1,000 job losses, as the company looked to reorganise its European operations. The Bridgend plant makes engines for Jaguar Land Rover, but that contract will end this year, and investment in the new Dragon engine has been scaled back.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “This is devastating news for workers, their families and the wider community. The effects of this decision will be felt across the Welsh economy, but nowhere as acutely as in Bridgend.
“The Welsh and UK Governments must urgently do all they can to support employees, help them find new work and protect Bridgend’s economy. However, we must accept that nothing can stop this being a dark day for Bridgend and the Welsh car industry.
“Ford Bridgend has become yet another devastating casualty of Brexit. This year we’ve already seen Honda announce the closure of its Swindon plant and several car makers temporarily shutdown their factories. How much longer are we prepared to allow this to continue?
“This is yet more evidence we must give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit. Only by stopping Brexit can we save jobs and protect the Welsh economy.”

Assembly Member for Bridgend and former First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Ford intend to shut the engine plant by next September. No reason given as to why it should be Bridgend. The workers deserve so much better than this after all their efforts and hard work. They did all that was asked of them.”

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, said: “Closure would be one of the most bitter blows for the Welsh economy for more than 30 years. Ford is jewel in the crown of the car industry – which is the hardcore of our manufacturing sector – the implications of this in terms of the supply chain and job losses is very grave.”

The future of the Bridgend site had been questioned for some time, dating back to the ‘One Ford’ plan which was introduced in 2008. From that point, Ford operated as one global company, with Ford UK and Ford Europe no longer designing different cars to the rest of the world. The same car models were then sold worldwide, and further investment went to plants that were the most efficient.

Bridgend was no longer just competing with plants in Cologne and Valencia, but with the rest of world.

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