June 12th, 2009

The New Boy

Despite recent posts about half the staff leaving the drowning ship that is the control room, there are one or two coming in.

We have one on our shift at the moment. He’s an ex traffic officer with abut 8 years service.  For some strange reason he thinks that coming into the conrol room will give him some assistance in the quest for promotion, well actually it’s probably not that strange to be fair. Working in the room does give you an insight into incident management & you get to learn the requirements at a vast arrange of jobs, like crime scene management, who to call when where & how.

Surprisingly (to me) they have asked me to train him. This means sitting with me for a few sets of shifts learning the ropes. It’s easier with police officers than with most civilians because a) they usually have a grasp of the law & procedure & b) they’re usually not self conscious about speaking on the radio.

It’s amazing how many people apply for a job as a communications operator but don’t possess good communication skills, you’d have thought that might be one of the requirements the recruiting staff would have sorted through the recruitment process. We had one ‘civvy’ who came into the room, was paired up with a police officer to train her & was into her second week of training before she revealed she didn’t like police officers & didn’t realise she’d actually have to work with them in the control room, but that’s another story, she didn’t last long.

There isn’t much problem guiding Adrian, most of the stuff is making sure he knows how to deal with the logs correctly, what buttons to press when, the talking on the radio & assigning units to jobs is standard fare really for police officers. We’ve all been there, done that.

In one of our conversations he did reveal how different the job was turning out as a controller. And I had exactly the same experiences as him when I came into the room.

As a police officer on the street you have a piece of plastic which contains wires & circuits. Someone inside speaks to you, they sometimes tell you what do to & sometimes they give you information you really need. How they do all that is of no consequence or interest to most officers. Like Adrian said, “I just asked for stuff & it was done”.

I guess it’s a little bit like the swan thing, it’s all smooth & calm on the surface as you pass information over the radio, but hidden from the officers’ eyes is the fact that under the water you are paddling like fuck to get all the info, type it up, enter it somewhere, make a phone call, speak to other staff & departments, all to answer a simple request which comes back seconds or minutes later, quite seemlessley (I spelt that about 4 different ways & still don’t know which version looks right).

I’ve said for ages that all front line police officers should spend at least one really busy shift in the control room, to give them a bit of an insight into the way we work & what goes on behind the scenes. Actually, come to thing of it, the people who run the bloody department could do worse than to come & sit with a busy controller for a while to see exactly what it’s like working in there.

Sometimes rookie cops come in & sit with us for a couple of hours, but that’s no good, they are still at the stage of the rabbit in the headlights so learn bugger all & appreicate nothing, by the time they’ve done their training & worked the street for a few weeks they’ve forgotten anything they heard or saw when they were in the room because it was all meaningless at the time.

I’d suggest any copper out there who’ve never seen the workings of the control room  ask to come in for a late turn. You won’t be allowed because your shift won’t spare you but at least you can stick the request down in your PDR under ‘willing to learn’ subject or whatever is this month’s must-have objective.

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  1. constableconfused.com says:

    I agree, if time permits on nights I always try to get up to the DCR and say hello. Someone will always try to make a brew and inevitably it won’t get finished which involves me driving back to my area at xxx mph. I wouldn’t do your job would sooner have mine.


    June 12th, 2009 at 23:34

  2. rosco says:

    I did come to the control room and spend some hours there one Friday evening and I agree totally with what you say: it’s amazing how much work goes into responding to radio requests and handling calls. It certainly gave me a lot more respect and understanding for what goes on, and you know that, if the controller goes silent on you for a while, it’s because they are busily doing something else.

    June 13th, 2009 at 08:30

  3. Civ_In_The_City says:

    Seeing other peoples part in the bigger play is often very useful, but when everyone is short-staffed and busy all the time you don`t get opportunity. Valuable insights and understanding about how to get the most out of other departments is just lost. Long-term inefficiencies will then remain unchallenged, you can`t fix the problem if you don`t know there is one.

    What`s worse where I am is that we have lost some staff for various reasons, some more permanently than others, god rest them, but their slots have not been filled. We can`t even cross-train other people on our section who are doing the same job and staying put, let alone show people from other parts of the department, or beyond, what we do.

    This same thing happened in my last job. They were so obsessed with cutting back on hours, wages, staffing levels, inefficiencies etc that in the end nobody got a chance to learn the skills to do the job before getting so p*ssed-off they left.

    Do you really want a workforce where skills walk out the door and aren`t replaced, or just dissolve away? Given a free choice would any employer hire a bunch of unskilled monkeys to carry out the company business? No you bloody wouldn`t, so why execute a plan that turns skilled staff into untrained monkeys?

    Eventually you`ll have to pay more to train your workforce back up, including making time for this to happen, OR you`ll lower your standard across the board so untrained monkeys can cope.

    Now, why would any government want to de-skill a large and expensive government funded service, so cheaper unskilled staff could run it?

    June 13th, 2009 at 09:18

  4. benno says:

    Good idea 200, will put the request in. Which as you say will be turned down, which is a shame as i know i take the control room for granted.

    June 13th, 2009 at 20:14

  5. boy on a bike says:

    Try “seamlessly”.

    I know this might sound counter-intuitive, but there is usually a push to put things like “control rooms” (or help desks) in their own separate, sound proof space because of all the chatter.

    In one of my previous jobs, we mixed up the “controllers” with all the desk wallahs and even our Big Boss. That way, everyone got an inkling as to what was going on just by listening. Our boss had a constant feel for how we worked by simply walking out of his office and mixing it with the troops who were on the phone etc etc.

    I’d never, ever lock this type of operation away again in a separate area. It takes a while for others to get used to hearing people talking on the phone all day, but 98% adjust without an issue. If they can’t hack it, they simply plug in their headphones and disappear into iPod world.

    June 14th, 2009 at 00:04

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