A police boss has been given a taste of what it’s like to be locked up in a cell.
The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin, paid a visit to see the state-of-the-art custody suite at the Eastern Command and Custody Facility in Llay, near Wrexham.
After being elected in May, Mr Dunbobbin has embarked on a fact-finding mission to get a detailed picture of how the force operates.
In conjunction with Chief Constable Carl Foulkes, he’s also launched a survey to consult the public about policing priorities as he prepares to write a new Police and Crime Plan which will serve as a blueprint for North Wales Police.
The facility in Llay, which serves Wrexham and Flintshire, was the most modern police station in the UK when it opened in 2018.
Meanwhile, the antiquated high-rise police station in Wrexham has been demolished to make way for a supermarket and a new town centre station with a public front desk has been opened in the former Oriel Gallery.
The cells in the old station in Wrexham had reached a point where they were no longer fit for purpose.
Mr Dunbobbin was given a guided tour of the custody suite in Llay by custody manager Inspector Kevin Steele.
All 32 cells have natural daylight and the complex is teeming with technology, including more than 160 high definition cameras.
Inspector Steele said: “The cells at Llay are light years ahead of the ones in Mold and at the old Wrexham station which have both been decommissioned– they are state-of-the-art.
“We have some cells for people with limited mobility where they can call for assistance and the beds are higher to allow for any mobility issues.
“In another area we have a separate block of cells for vulnerable people, including young people.
“People are well looked after here and it’s a gateway to other services for them, should they need it.
“A large proportion of them have complex issues that require intervention from multiple agencies and, if we can’t make referrals from custody, we can signpost them in the right direction.
“Safeguarding is an important element in our work and every detained person that comes in here is risk assessed and a care plan tailored to their individual needs is put in place.”
Inspector Steele also revealed that technology had replaced the need for old fashioned line-ups when witnesses were called to identify suspects.
“The VIPER (Video Identification Parades Electronic Recording) room is where the identity parade is formulated when somebody needs to take part in what is an old-fashioned line-up or identity parade.
“It’s all done on DVD or streamed so that any victims or any witnesses would never have to come face to face with a suspect. It’s made life a lot easier for everybody.”
According to Mr Dunbobbin, the visit had given him a fascinating and important insight into how a custody suite operates.
He said: “The Eastern Command and Custody Facility is only three years old so everything here is right up to date and is fit for the 21st century.
“The custody suite is very impressive and the cells are kitted out with integrated high definition cameras.
“All of them benefit from natural daylight which is in contrast to the traditional image of dark, dank cells in days of old.
“It’s clear everything possible is done to ensure that detainees are well looked after and treated with dignity and respect.
“This is very important to me and I have a team of independent custody visitors who safeguard the welfare of detainees.
“They are volunteers who make unannounced visits to the custody suites here in Llay and in St Asaph and Caernarfon.
“The scheme gives reassurance to the detainees that there is somebody looking out for them and it also provides reassurance to their families that they are being well cared for.”
The Police and Crime Plan survey is now available at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SMDKY8R for people to complete until Friday, August 20. Paper copies of the survey are available by contacting [email protected] or 01492 805486. An easy read version of the survey is also available.