Police Call Handling

The IPCC have blamed a “fatal combination of technological and human errors” in a case they have investigated recently…

A woman murdered by her former boyfriend was failed by two police forces and the 999 system, the police watchdog has found. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) looked at actions by South Wales Police and Gwent Police before the killing of Joanna Michael. The 25-year-old mother-of-two was stabbed to death at home in St Mellons, Cardiff, by Cyron Williams, 19. (BBC News)

The full IPCC report of 17 pages is available from their website and makes a number of force and national recommendations relating to training and policy etc. Call handlers in both forces are facing disciplinary action.

As their actions/inactions were a contributory factor in a death that is appropriate however, what concerns me more are the organisational and policy failings. Far to often when something goes wrong, the organisation blame shifts to the lowest level and the employee is castigated for the failures of the employer.

There will be workers within the emergency services call handling sector that can bring to mind incidents which deserved a better result. Where they pause and think, ‘there but for the grace of god go I’.

And, there are just as many who have pointed out technical, policy and training issues to their employers, where little or no remedial action has been taken. Contrary to popular senior management belief; an emergency service call centre is not a commercial operation, where success or failure can be measured and assessed by statistics alone!

Will things within police call centers change because of this report? Very unlikely… Change will only come when some of those responsible for the implementation of systems, policy and training are held to account. Sacking some ill-equipped poorly trained call taker may placate external complaints but it will not drive forward any required changes!

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