October 17th, 2007

Close but no Cigar

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

PC Bloggs posted something this week about what happens when you make a 999 call. I’ve reproduced the salient points below and added a few comments (in red);

  • You get through to the joint emergency services operator who will ask which service you want (ie police, fire, ambulance, coastguard, meals on wheels etc).
  • Correct

  • They will put you through, but you will have to wait on the line while they relay your phone number across. You might think this would be electronically transmitted immediately. You might well think this.
  • Also correct, although new technology this year will automatically fire across your telephone number without the operator having to tell us.

  • You get through to a call-taker. THIS IS NOT A POLICE OFFICER. He or she will try to grasp why you have called and start recording it into a typed log. Once some basic details are typed in, if they deem your call an emergency, the call-taker can "ping" it across to the control room. By now it will be about one minute since you dialled.
  • Wrong. It is very possible the person who answers your 999 call WILL be a police officer. It may well be me, if my luck is out that day. I hate taking 999 calls, sorry but it’s true. They like police officers taking calls; we tend to blank more callers and tell them we’re not interested in their complaint & they should speak to someone who gives a fuck. Whereas civilians will promise a response, tell you we’ll take statements, and promise all sorts of things we’ll end up not delivering.

  • A controller reads the log. They CAN dispatch a police officer now, but in all probability there are some checks they need to do first, such as whether your number or address has called the police before and the outcome. They will do police national computer checks on any names you give them. All of this will take 3-5 minutes.

Depends. If it’s an immediate response we’ll have sent a unit straight away, we’ll then carry out our intelligence checks. If it’s a real emergency we’ll have sent someone before we fully know what the job is all about. That’s why police officers on route to jobs always ask for information we haven’t got yet, because the caller is still talking to the call-taker while an officer is already on route.

  • Now they will "grade" your call. Which means decide whether police will go with blue lights on, without, or quite frankly whether we’ll bother at all.
  • Wrong, at least where I work. The call has already been graded by the calltaker, quite often they get it right but we can correct the response level if the calltaker is talking out of their arse.

  • If you get the top grading, they will search for a resource. This can take the form of an electronic search for units who have booked themselves "available". They can also use the in-car radio sets to track the nearest unit (if the driver’s turned it on and it’s working – unlikely). Usually, they will call up on the air asking for a unit to volunteer.
  • In-car tracking? Which force does she work for? Tracking systems may have been in use in ambulances and my local taxi company for years but most police forces don’t have them.

  • After a suitable pause to see if anyone else is going to volunteer, someone will. They then set off.
  • Er, they will volunteer if it’s a job they can use their blue lights on, if it’s some crappy pain-in-the-arse ‘harassment’ text message job (i.e. most of them) they will suddenly remember they’re not available for assignments but are taking urgent statements or doing the urgent arrest enquiry they’ve been keeping for a few weeks for just such an occasion. Except PC Cross.

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  1. Reactively Proactive says:

    Now your seeing things from the other side of the hedge. When you were on response were you a PC Cross or an urgent statement taker? I think I fall between the 2. I like to think I help as much as I can when we get strapped, but if its a complete bag of…, then I may trundle to the job knowing that a higher priority job will come in and as we have so few cars available will be diverted.

    October 17th, 2007 at 13:18

  2. 200 says:

    Hmmm, difficult. Not difficult in the sense of knowing the answer but difficult in the sense that I’ve never really been one for blowing my own trumpet.
    I can honestly say in the last 20 something years I’ve never knowingly not answered my radio, ever. I’ve never looked for an excuse to avoid doing a job. On my last shift there were only 2 or 3 of us and we worked extremely well together, we were unusual in that we had no probationers at our police station, just a core of experienced officers none of whom had less than 10 years service. We were all advanced drivers. If you avoided a job it meant one of your close mates had to pick it up and everyone would know so you never did it.
    I joined the job, syrupy though it may be, to help people and I still do that today, if you were to ask any of my troops who were the most helpful, friendly & polite controllers in the room, I’d like to think I’d be one of those named. I do so because a) it’s my nature and b)I used to do that job so I know exactly what’s involved and what it’s like when you’re on the end of the radio & need a little assistance.
    I’m also unusual in that when I see a bit of good work I email Sgts & Inspectors about it, few people in the control room ever do that…mind you, it would be nice if a little bit of what goes around comes around came back my way too…it rarely does.

    October 17th, 2007 at 17:06

  3. 200 says:

    PS, was this comment in the right thread or should it have been in the PC Cross thread? I just noticed!

    October 17th, 2007 at 17:07

  4. Vicki says:

    I can see where PC Bloggs is coming from having called 999 a couple of times in the past. Most of my controllers are brilliant, but then I’m traffic so we use the main county channel and not the local ones most of time. Our controllers seem to know what we want or need before we ask and seem calm and in control at all times, which is great.
    The civilian call takers I have dealt with are not very good. I called 999 recently whilst on a major motorway. Another car had been driving dangerously cutting up other vehicles, using the hard shoulder as a running lane etc. I just stayed out of his way until he pulled alongside me to undertake me. Even then I thought, just get out of the way. He matched speeds and then I glanced round and saw one of the rear seat passengers with his penis exposed and masterbating towards my 2 year old daughter who was in the rear of my car on the nearside.
    The I called 999. The call taker made me repeat everything a couple of times even though I was speaking as slowly as possible, but still trying to relay all the necessary information. She didn’t understand what I meant by “A” carraigeway and even though I gave her a marker post she didn’t know where I was.
    I slowed right down and got well out of the way as the car sped off. I asked her to try and type some information on the log so that I could refer to it later and as far as I am aware she did.
    When I saw the log later NOTHING useful was on it apart from the index. No descriptions, nothing about the driving and best of all the opening line read ‘off-duty officer driving at speed’. Just great.

    October 18th, 2007 at 16:07

  5. rosco says:

    I find this description of call-takers more accurate – it is what I observed and seems pretty spot-on in all aspects.

    As regards Vicki’s observation on civilian call-takers, I did make a welfare call on the non-emergency force number and, when I checked the log some days later, they had accurately placed in all the pertinent information that I had given and got a unit despatched to deal , so they’re not all bad!

    October 18th, 2007 at 20:29

  6. teresa says:

    I was just looking at all the above and find myself thining” what the hell is the police doing employing these call takers” I am going for an interview for a call taker myself and I want to do the best possible job for the police and public.

    Do the Police Officers ever get chances to report on the support they require from such people. Am I weraring rose color specks as I realy want to do this?

    I admire and respect the force and want to do the best I can.

    November 16th, 2007 at 13:24

  7. 200 says:


    in fairness I expect that many of the call takers want to do the best job they can. Unfortunately it’s a training issue, they are being trained by people who have never worked on the control, side of things, they also don’t get to spend any time sitting with controllers to experience the sort of rubbish which gets sent across and thereby understand the sort of information we require & why we require it. Until they get ‘proper’ training this will just continue.

    It may be better in other forces, I don’t know.

    November 16th, 2007 at 13:58

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