February 21st, 2010

Supervisors – what exactly do they do?

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I sometimes despair of the supervisors in the control room. I often wonder if they actually have a clue about how their staff perform.

What happens on the control room is a 999 call comes in & goes to one of a group of people tasked to answer the phones. They are responsible for taking all the information from the caller, sorting out what’s important what’s irrelevant, condensing it all onto a computer log & sending it over to a controller. The controller’s job is to decide who to send & to provide them with as much information as possible to assist the police units in dealing effectively with whatever the job is.

As a controller you can only present what information is in front of you. This is when you have to rely on the call-taker doing a good job by actually asking the right questions & typing it into the log.

You’d have thought that a suitable period sitting with an experienced call-taker learning the ropes & several months of taking calls for between 8 & 12 hours a day you’d learn what is important what isn’t.

Sadly, this is quite often not the case. There are certain members of staff who, when you see their number on log you instantly know it will be what we in the trade call a ‘crap log’.

A crap log usually fails to contain pretty vital information. Often this includes, but is not limited to, the exact location of the job – in a road that might be 5 miles or more long “London Road” isn’t particularly helpful; details of the offender – it’s amazing how many times basic details like sex, colour or age are missed off when someone is reporting watching someone in the act of a criminal offence or suspicious behaviour, and when they make off, their direction of travel. All details fundamental to trying to catch someone;  vehicle details – ‘offender made off in a vehicle’ isn’t the most helpful of comments, was it an artic, a car or a quad bike?

It all makes my job more difficult than it could be. We often send a little electonic note to the calltaker asking for a description for instance. Quite often you get a reply ‘informant couldn’t give a description’, this is often code for ‘I forgot to ask’ because when you, as a controller, stop what you’re doing to ring the informant back direct, it’s amazine how much detail they can provide, if only they are asked. I often ring people back when I should be concentrating on sorting the job out because one thing in life is a given, no matter how many times you announce on the radio that there is no further information available, some police officer will always call up asking for more information.

So we get the same people sending the same crap logs. We’ve been told not to approach the staff directly about it in case they take it the wrong way so we flag it up for the supervisors, who, judging by the lack of improvement over periods of time, appear to do fuck all.

Worse, the people who are crap at taking logs get promoted, so how the hell the management expect them to spot a crap log much less deal with it is beyond me. We had a new intake of staff into the control room recently, it was down-heartening, if not suprising to see that some of the people training them are the worst offenders.

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  1. dungbeetle says:

    So” wot’s new.” for forty years of my working life it was like that , except it is now in full flow. It always amazes me that the system works some of the time.
    Firing incompetence . why not? tis so PC to promote. Nature says there is nothing like success to get the best genetic strain thus we the cream of the crop rise to the top [ so does crud, and there is more crud].
    Why should I complain I have risen to my level of incompetence so many times.
    I doth enjoy blog, to see that world is still normal

    February 22nd, 2010 at 00:18

  2. Pc A Hunn says:

    As a plod I can’t spot 99% of the time the ex-cop / cop taken jobs rather than the civvy taken ones. It’s the same with the operators. A bit of practicle policing experience goes a long long way as does some local knowledge. We’ve currently got a large number of young female operators who are utterly useless. They talk too much, about irrelivant things, panick when it gets busy, have a goldfish memory, frequently say things over the air that complicate the jobs tenfold and have really squeeky voices which after 8 hours is like having your teeth filed down. They’ll probably go far.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 02:03

  3. Pc A Hunn says:

    Last one should say can not can’t… Too much vino.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 02:05

  4. Stonehead says:

    I suspect the fire service has the same problem. When I called them for a major fire at a neighbouring farm, I gave precise instructions on how to reach us quickly as our local unit is retained and appliances would be coming from towns some distance away.

    The directions were not passed to the firefighters coming from either of those towns, which meant I found myself standing next to a blazing house watching an appliance drive slowly along the road on the opposite side of the valley trying to work out how to reach us. It took them a further 10 minutes to drive into the village on their road and then back out again on our road.

    Another appliance, from the other town, stopped at a farm 1.5 miles short of the one I was at, with a large hill between us and them. Fortunately, a motorist who’d driven past the fire stopped and redirected the appliance as the firefighters were about to turn around and head back.

    When the fire was contained, I talked to both crews and neither of them had been passed the directions. They’d just been given the post code, which covers a large area. Also, it’s not clear from maps exactly which roads provide access to which farms.

    And that’s the real consequence of detailed information not being passed from call-taker to controller/dispatcher—people, livestock and property are left vulnerable for much longer.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 07:10

  5. Me says:

    “‘Worse, the people who are crap at taking logs get promoted…’ If that is true, a personnel system operating without effective feedback and monitoring may exist.” Bloody hell I just understood and agreed with Melvyn!!!

    Good call takers and controllers are vital. Poor ones really do cost lives and stress the Response teams to the absolute max. When some voices come over the radio at the start of a shift the whole team is on a downer for the rest of the day…you just know it’s going to be a hard one. Other voices come out over the Airwaves and the teams spirits lift (visibly) because you know that what you’re told is as much as can be got, the crap has been filtered and if anything else comes in (like a further call or info form Ambulance) you will be told about it as soon as the controller has it….it really can make or break the job,incident and lives. Poor ones should be removed and good ones given pay rises.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 12:34

  6. Met Blackrat says:

    Bit of a limb here, but here goes. We could use older, more experienced officers in their local control rooms, who are familiar with their area, assisting the officers on foot with the incidents & using their skills honed over many years to deliver the service the public wanted. Oh wait, that was tried and called a Police Force wasn’t it?

    February 22nd, 2010 at 15:18

  7. Gary says:

    Many years ago while in the Army I had a lot of contact with Civil Servants working for the MOD. I was involved in a security breach investigation and the culprit was, instead of being punished, duly promoted. Somewhat bemused by such an outcome I made some enquiries and discovered that dismissal was difficult and that promoting beyond ability was the norm!
    Obviously this tactic is used in other walks of life as well.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 19:04

  8. Intel Fairy says:

    Just to make a tiny point….. ok, some civilians are rubbish at their jobs, but in the same breath – not all police officers are saintly.

    I work as a civvy in intel, and can say (without being cocky) that I work ten times harder and get more results than some of the officers we have. Some officers can be incompetant and plain lazy, but think they are untouchable as they’ve “done 26 years” etc.

    Didn’t mean to rant, just hate the way civvys are classed as lesser citizens the majority of the time. Don’t we all have the same aim at the end of the day – to make the steets safer and get the crims locked up?!

    February 22nd, 2010 at 19:57

  9. Oi says:

    Of course you are correct intel. There is often a nugget of gold to be found in the pail of crap.
    There is a subtle difference in civvy employment as compared to the cop – all too often to the civvy, it a job, while [and I'm possibly going out on a limb here] to the cop its a career. And often in his career he has suffered the incompetencies of that part of the pail contemnts that isnt gold!

    February 22nd, 2010 at 21:18

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