The control room is split into different units. Each unit or desk covers a division. So each division has its own radio channel with its own set of controllers.
As controllers we tend to stick to a small number of channels. WeÃ‚Â might do some shifts one one channel/division & then move to another for a while. If you only do a small amount of changing you build up a more in depth knowledge of the area you are controlling, you get to know the geographical layout, you recognise the street names, you know the names of the local scrotes & ne’er-do-wells.
Often the area you work is determined because you have an in depth knowledge of the area. In cases like me, who have some into the control room from the streets, this is the areas you used to work on the streets, built up, in some cases over many years.
It makes sense to work an area you know. You can provide a much better service to the officers if you actually know where you are sending them.
I’ve worked every division in the control room at some time or another. Several divisions might as well be in a different force. There are a few towns in the area I can honestly say I’ve never visited in my life, so how I can be expected to provide decent service as a controller, I don’t know.
The problem is that in order to build up a knowledge of an area, you need to work it regularly, so you have to start somewhere.
I’ve been working on one of our southern divisions recently. I don’t know the area at all. Despite the millions spent on the new ‘Airwave’ radio systems, the clarity of transmissions is not as good as was trumpeted before it arrived. I therefore spend an inordinate amount of time asking people to repeat the names of streets.
Was what I thought they said Cheadle Close, or could it have been Needle Close, or perhaps Beadle Close? And was it actually Close or could it have been Court?
If you know the town you would know there isn’tÃ‚Â a Cheadle Close or a Needle Close, so it must have been Beadle Close, if the radio transmission isn’tÃ‚Â perfect you can still work out what they’re saying.
With the names of local criminals, you have an even bigger problem if you don’t hear the names correctly.
Most of the time you can get round it by asking them to repeat it or spell it out, or you can check the mapping system or the command & control system – which has all the police district’s addresses on it. But what happens when you get a call for assistance or have an immediate job kicking off.
It’s also frustrating when you are following something on CCTV but haven’t a clue where it is or which direction people are going towards. If you are double-crewed, [& you're partner doesn't know the area] you can get your oppo to speak with CCTV for directions or check the mapping system. But when you’re on your own – as we are increasingly these days – you can’t work the radio, update or read the logs & try to find out what’s happening where & where to send officers, it’s a bloody nightmare, I really feel for the officers!