Behind the scenes of policing in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset
Video number three – contact centres
This is the third in our series of videos that lifts the lid on the work of the Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police Alliance Operations Department (Ops).
Although you may not have realised it, the Contact Management and Communications Unit (CMCU) in Devon and Cornwall and Force Command Centre in Dorset are part of Ops. As the gateway for the public to reach the police, and at the same time the team that allocates officers to respond, these contact centres are at the frontline of policing.
The men and women who work in the contact centres in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job, as you will see from our video and by reading the Q&As.
You can follow the Alliance Operations department on Twitter at @AllianceOpsDept where we welcome your comments and queries.
Q: How busy is it in the contact centres?
A: Two contact centres in Devon and Cornwall – one at Police HQ in Exeter and one in Plymouth – receive 500 – 800 emergency (999) calls every day and 2,000 – 2,500 non-emergency calls via 101
Dorset’s single contact centre receives over 200 emergency 999 calls and over 1,300 calls to 101 every day
Q: How many people work in the police contact centres?
A: Over 450 people work in the contact centres and control rooms. At any given time there can be more than 100 people answering calls and dispatching police resources to incidents.
Q: Do contact centre staff only answer calls?
A: No. Some staff answer and prioritise calls coming in, other staff contact officers and allocate them to incidents accoirding to priorities and requirements. The contact centres for that reason contain radio operators.
Q: Are all civilian contact centre staff full time? How long does it take to train to be a call handler?
A: No, the contact centres and control rooms are great places for people to work part time and flexible hours. It can take up to a year to become fully trained and skilled.
Q: Are all the people who answer calls civilian police staff?
A: No. Examples of police officers who work in the contact centres are the Force Incident Managers (FIM) in Devon and Cornwall who is a police Inspector (this role is called the Critical Incident Inspector, soon to be renamed to Response Inspector, in Dorset). In Devon and Cornwall we also have more than 22 sergeants and 30 police constables.
Q: Will I have to wait if call 101?
A: Probably, this is more than likely as we prioritise emergency calls. Remember if life is threatened or if criminals are still nearby, call 999. Otherwise, we have alternative online contact methods which mean you don’t have to wait to make a non-emergency report. This is why in we ask you to #ClickB4UCall if you are comfortable using email and online contact methods.
All contact methods in Devon and Cornwall can be found here: https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/contact/
For Dorset, look here: https://www.dorset.police.uk/contact-us/
Q: How do I report a non-emergency crime or respond to an appeal if 101 is very busy and I can’t wait?
A: In Devon and Cornwall you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or make an online crime report here: https://services.devon-cornwall.police.uk/crimereporting/ or you can see if any of our LiveChat agents are logged in (there’ll be a widget on the home page of our website if so) and we’ll be happy to chat with you.
In Dorset you can email email@example.com or report online here https://www.dorset.police.uk/do-it-online/full-crime-report/
All of these services connect to the same contact centre staff who respond to 101 calls, but must not be used in emergencies.
Q: Can I ask a question through the 101 service?
A: You can, although we would ask you to look first at our AskNED non-emergency directory (in Devon and Cornwall) or look through the website for your answers first, and use the 101 email address if you can. Alternatively, you can use LiveChat (in Devon and Cornwall) when it is available (a widget will appear on the home page of the website when it is). LiveChat also connects to the contact centre.
Q: What if I want to speak to someone in person, can I do that?
A: Staff at our Police Enquiry Offices would be very pleased to help you, but to avoid an unnecessary journey, check locations and opening hours here for Devon and Cornwall: https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/contact/
And here for Dorset: https://www.dorset.police.uk/contact-us/visit-us/
Q: What if I’m not sure that what I’m asking about is a police matter?
A: We ask that you #ThinkBeforeYouCall
Calls to 101 which are not about police business make everyone wait longer to be heard.
In Devon and Cornwall use AskNED, our non-emergency directory. This will indicate which agency locally can help you best, such as in the case of civil matters such as noisy neighbours, parking, stray dogs and dog fouling and so on. AskNED also contains answers from the national Ask the Police service.
You will find AskNED here: https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/
Q: How can I be the first to know about crime alerts and appeals in my area?
A: Register for free and with no obligation to Devon and Cornwall Alert or Dorset Alert. These two way community messaging services keep you in the know by email, text or phone.
Both Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police have Facebook and Twitter accounts that publish timely alerts, appeals and information on a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day basis. They are extremely good sources of information to keep in the know about what’s happening.
Devon and Cornwall Alert: http://alerts.dc.police.uk/
Dorset Alert: https://www.dorsetalert.co.uk/
Q: Do people genuinely call the police about things that are nothing to do with them?
A: We’re afraid they do. Devon and Cornwall Police has been called by someone complaining about a lack of toilet paper in public lavatories and Dorset Police has been asked what time the bus would arrive. There are more examples like this and they are quite extreme, but what we ask is that you first ThinkBeforeYouCall and then if you can to ClickB4UCall.
That way we can allocate our resources to genuine police matters, and those who wish to use the 101 phone service will find it quicker to do so.
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