High school pupils from Bala had the chance to investigate behind the scenes of their local police station.
As part of their life skills course at Ysgol y Berwyn they were given a VIP guided tour of Bala Police Station by the North Wales’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Julian Sandham and South Gwynedd policing team sergeant, Iwan Jones.
At the end of the visit, during which they fired questions at their hosts on a range of topics from police budgets to high-speed pursuits, at least two of the young visitors from Year 10 said they were considering a career in the force as a result of their insight into the job.
The visit was arranged by Mr Sandham in conjunction with Pat Astbury, vice-chair of the North Wales Police and Crime Panel who has connections with the school.
Welcoming to them to the station, Sgt Jones described its operation and manning levels before showing them over the front counter where members of the public have direct contact with officers.
He told them it was a good example of a smaller community station and integral to the North Wales force’s neighbourhood policing strategy.
The visitors were then taken through the process of arrests, with Sgt Jones explaining the importance of prisoners’ human rights being respected at all times.
However, he added: “If we can deal with someone without actually arresting them, that’s the route we prefer to go down these days.”
Mr Sandham outlined the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner, telling the Ysgol y Berwyn guests: “There are four key points to remember about the Commissioner, who in North Wales is, Winston Roddick.
“These are – that he sets the budget for the police force once a year, devises the police and crime plan in compliance with the law, appoints the Chief Constable and engages with members of the community, finding out what they want from policing in their area, which is one reason I am here today.”
The Deputy Commissioner and Sgt Jones then came under close questioning by their four visitors, which began with why they had chosen their respective careers.
Mr Sandham explained that after retiring with the rank of Chief Superintendent after over 30 years with the North Wales force he had successfully applied for his current role.
He said: “My previous experience as a police officer gives me a good understanding of how the force operates and is a big advantage as Deputy Commissioner.”
Sgt Jones explained his father had been a police officer and that he had followed his footsteps into the force after completing a college engineering degree just over 14 years ago.
“I enjoy my job because it provides different experiences every day,” he said.
The Deputy Commissioner spoke of the value of regular school liaison visits made by police officers during which topics covered included bullying, sexting and alcohol and drug abuse.
James Grice, 14, from Llandderfel, said: “I’ve had a really interesting time visiting the police station and hearing about the sort of work that goes on and what’s involved in the job of officers and the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“It’s actually also made me think a bit about what I might want to do when I leave school.
“I had been considering becoming a restorer of classic cars but there’s just a chance I might now look at becoming a police officer as it sounds a very interesting way of life.”
Ella Rowlands, 14, from Bala said: “It’s been very interesting looking behind the scenes at the station and hearing about how policing is done.
“In fact, I’ve now changed my mind about what I want to do when I leave school.
“I did want to be a hairdresser or to care for elderly people but now my idea is to become a police officer, which sounds like a really interesting job.”
Mr Sandham said: “Talking to young people can give you a different perspective on crime and disorder and it’s good to hear what they want from policing and personal safety.
“Visits like this underline the importance of people from our office getting out and about to meet and speak to different sections of the community.
“It was particularly interesting to hear today about what the young people said about policing budgets and the need to have proper manning of our police stations.
“It was a very worthwhile exercise which we plan to do more of in the future.”
That was also the verdict of Pat Astbury, who helped arrange the visit, and said: “Today was very useful for the young people involved.
“They spent lots of time preparing their questions which they came up with by themselves.
“They were looking forward to making the visit and I know they’re going to be talking about it for a long time.”