I’ve mentioned many times about the levels of stress in the control room. I dont want to over- dramatise it as I guess most jobs have their own very different stresses, but it is there.
One of the indicators is often the sound of a headset or telephone being slammed down swiftly followed by the sound of rapid footsteps as the controller heads for the door. This can be for periods ranging from a few minutes to the whole of the rest of the shift.
Tears & tantrums aren’t strangers to the control room although regarding the tears it’s usually the females who exhibit their over-stresses in that way. I don’t know whether the women are more easily affected by stress or whether the blokes just hide it more. I suspect that men just aren’t comfortable admitting that they have the same vulnerabilities.
I’m generally quite a laid back type of bloke. People I work with describe me as calm & unruffled &Ã‚Â think I’m the last one to get stressed. I put this down to the swan effect; all calm & serene on the surface but under the water the legs are paddling like fuck.
So it was interesting to see people’s reactions when the following happened in the same week:
We were on a busy late shift. Amanda was working one of the busy towns. She’d had to deal with lots of jobs with not lots of people to sort them & had to make a couple of phone calls which, judging by her raised abrupt tones, didn’t go too smoothly. It actually did culminate in a slamming down of a phone & a dash out of the room. When this happens most people know about it, if they don’t see or hear it direct they soon catch on to the comments “did you see Amanda?”, “what’s wrong with Amanda?”
She is followed out of the room by one of her mates & a supervisor. They offer comfort, support & sympathy. Amanda cools down for 40 minutes before coming back into the room & over the next hour she gets visits from other members of the team asking her how she is with consolling hands on shoulders or gently friendly rubs of the arm. She gets told that if she needs a break to let someone know & they’ll sort it.
The very next day I’m on a busy shift. I have calls coming from inside & out which I can’t service. An off-duty officer calls in asking for police attendance. I have nobody to send, he is following someone in his own car. He calls back a few minutes later, I still have nobody to send.
He calls back a few more minutes later & unhappy that there is nobody to send – he is presumably more important than everyone else who wants to see an officer – he asks to be put through to the control room inspector.
A few minutes later the inspector comes over & asks what I’m doing about Pc Bloggs. I reply something along the lines of nothing, I dont have anyone to send. I am busy trying to deal with a major RTC. The inspector suggests I need to send someone to Pc Bloggs. I say something about why should Pc Bloggs – off duty – have a better service than anyone else over a suspected traffic offence anyway I still don’t have anyone to send. I am quite stressed by now, quite short & dismissive of the inspector who is interrupting urgent work I need to be doing. No more is said & the inspector walks off.
Nobody gets sent to Pc Bloggs. For all I know Pc Bloggs might still be following the car who’s rear lights might still not be working.
The next day I get called in to the office by the control room inspector. I have a good relationship with him. I have a good relationship with everyone on the shift, which can’t be said for several shift members. I think its because I am easy-going & don’t hold grudges.
The inspector gives me a bollocking for the way I spoke to him. He openly admits that after the incident, two (female) supervisors who had overheard, come up to him later & say the way I spoke go him was out of order, they say ‘are you going to let him get away with it?’ On reflection he agrees saying that although it is out of character it is unacceptable &Ã‚Â he has to be seen not to tolerate that kind of behaviour on the shift.
I find it strange that he knows how out of character it is, yet fails to ask if there was any reason for it.
I take the bollocking & walk out, only to spend the next couple of hours stewing.
During the second half of the shift I ask to see the inspector in the office. I tell him the reason I was unusually short is because prior to coming to work I am told a close family member has an incurable disease &Ã‚Â has just months to live.
I make the observation that if one of the girls on the shift exhibits stress they get taken out of the room, offered support & comfort & time to de-stress but if one of the blokes does it,Ã‚Â he gets a bollocking.
He has no real answer.
My relative dies 5 weeks later. The time from diagnosis until death is just 2 months.