Lincolnshire Police give insight into work of police force control room staff
Children phone in as violence breaks out between parents, a caller reports a serious collision from the roadside, and community members reach out to stop crimes in progress – these are just some of the 1,100 calls that call takers in the Lincolnshire Police Force Control Room (FCR) can take each day.
Acting as the first point of contact between the force and the public, call takers decide what level of response is required and make sure officers are well-informed before they arrive at a scene.
There’s also the work they do to avoid any deployment all together – work that flies under the radar and stays within the four walls of the Force Control Room building. The calls they take can be from people ringing 101 or 999.
Adele Badiali has worked as a call taker for the last five years, having previously worked at Lincoln County Hospital.
“We save lives everyday,” said Adele, who was offered a full-time role just six months after she started.
“We can’t let officers go into these situations blind – we get names, dates, places, has the potential offender got weapons, if so, what have they got?
“And a lot of the time we may be speaking to people who are hysterical and are struggling to hold it together – we might even be speaking to people who have chosen to follow the perpetrators.
"We’ve got to decide what’s required and get that out there as quickly as possible to keep the public safe.
"We get elderly people who call in who need help and advice that isn’t always linked to the police.
"People think it’s all dramatic phone calls – but it’s not and sometimes the best work we do goes unseen and doesn’t require deployment.”
Call takers are required to diagnose a situation in seconds – they have to find out who is calling, why they’re calling, if they’re at risk, what response is required and advise the person what to do next.
But just because a crime has been logged and officers are on the way, it doesn’t mean the work of the call-taker is over. It could be the beginning for workers who may have to spend another hour on the phone, calming someone down and making sure they’re OK.
Technology has also changed the role over the past decade, with staff going from one single computer to three screens.
What used to be a 30-second logging process now takes around three or four minutes to ensure that officers have all the information they need.
Paul Holmes, 63, has been in the job for 11 years, after having served as a controller in Manchester beforehand.
One working day he remembers clearly was when a colleague took a call about a serious incident in a Lincolnshire town.
“The guy who took the call was very resilient – but he came off the phone shaken,” said Paul.
“I am ex-forces so when you get those type of phone calls, I go into overdrive mode and my training takes over, but it’s not the same for everyone and for some people it is difficult.
"I just like helping people and helping my colleagues when they start the job – that’s what it’s all about.”
One of the FCR’s youngest call takers is Jaedene Mitchell, 20, who has worked there for the last two years.
She has always had a passion for the police and jumped at the chance to work as a call taker to help people across the county.
“I don’t think people realise just how important you are as the first person a member of the public is going to speak to,” said Jaedene, who says that enthusiasm is key when people first call in.
“One of the most difficult cases I had was when a woman called us and was just screaming and then suddenly, I heard her say ‘my baby’s not breathing’.
“This wasn’t really a police call, typically we would take some details and transfer them over to the ambulance service – but in this situation, I felt we didn’t have time. It was too much time in my head.
"I got her to get the baby over her lap and we managed to get what was stuck in her throat out. She was just crying her eyes out. It’s difficult.”
But it’s not always the calls people expect to have an emotional impact that leave the biggest impression.
Jaedene added: “It’s often not these really dramatic incidents take their toll on you because you kind of become desensitised to it.
“It’s the call from an elderly woman who’s in the house alone by herself and is just lonely that really hits me hard. It’s those more human calls that get to you.”
To contact the police in situations which don't require an immediate response, use the non-emergency number, 101. This helps to keep 999 available for when there is an emergency, such as a crime is taking place, or somebody is in immediate danger.
Crimes can also be reported online.