Ever wondered what it’s like to be a call handler? Being a call handler is a demanding yet highly rewarding role - we spoke to Contact Resolution Officer, Kyle, who told us all about his position in the Force Control Room…
“Since leaving school in 2012, I have always worked in retail or customer service, but I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term. I decided I wanted to work somewhere that helped people, somewhere that makes a difference to people’s lives and somewhere that carries out important work. I have a friend that has worked here for around five years now as a call handler, and since joining she has been telling me how good the job is and that I needed to apply. After looking into it, I took her advice and applied for the position. I started my role as a contact resolution officer in January this year, first in the Tutor Unit in February, and then I joined my shift group at the end of March.
“To do this job, I would say you need to be confident when speaking to the public and be able to think on your feet, as every call is different. You need to be able to listen to the caller and decide what to ask before making decisions based on the information you’re receiving - you can’t be shy about asking questions that might be considered awkward or difficult. There is no script to follow, as you don’t know what call might be coming through next. You could have two calls with similar reports, but one piece of information from one caller might change how you respond to the next.
“Being a team player in this role is crucial. While everyone takes and handles their own calls, we all rely on each other for advice and opinions. This co-operation is also very helpful when we’re receiving repeat calls from an individual, or receiving multiple calls for a single incident such as an accident on the motorway.
“When you first join your group, it is a bit of an adjustment if you have never worked nights before. I am the type of person who has never been able to take naps or sleep during the day, but you get used to it, and you get into a routine after you have worked a couple of sets. Another challenge can sometimes be when dealing with an upset or irate caller, which may make you want to grade an incident higher than it needs to be. With these types of calls, you have to learn how to take control of the call, making sure you are getting the relevant information and then using this information to grade the incident appropriately. Over time, you learn how to speak to these callers, and more often than not, they will normally be grateful for your help if you assure them the police are helping and offer some advice on how to move forward, even if they are not getting the response they expected, which will usually be an immediate/emergency response.
“In terms of workloads, these differ daily, and it all depends on how many calls we have coming through. Some days tend to be busier than others, such as Fridays and Saturdays. Night shifts are often quieter than day shifts, except for Fridays and Saturdays. You do get some shifts where calls come through one after the other, because we are constantly receiving 999 calls. With some shifts, sometimes there will be big gaps between calls; the longest time I went without a call coming through was whilst I was working a mid-week shift, and I was waiting over 50 minutes for my next call.
“What I enjoy most about my job is that I know I am playing a part in helping people who need it. It is also a really interesting job, especially if you need to do some digging and can start working out what has been happening with certain incidents. Or, for example you may get a report for a suspicious vehicle and after doing some digging, you could find it is a stolen vehicle, or it may be a vehicle that has been used during a crime. When you eventually get to the bottom of it, it feels very rewarding and satisfying knowing that you have helped someone.
“To anyone who is considering joining SYP as a call handler, who might be asking themselves “what if I make the wrong decision on a call and someone gets hurt?”, with the training you receive and ensuring that you find out as much information as possible from the caller, you will be able to make the right decision.
“Now that I have the job, I regret not applying five years ago! It is such a rewarding role, and you are helping people who need it most. The pay is great, and the work/life balance is really good, plus the managers in my team are lovely and so supportive, so I would definitely encourage people to apply if it’s something they are interested in.”
As part of his role, Kyle will also work as a Dispatch Operator, and he will soon begin training for this.
All our Call Handler and Dispatch Operators have dual roles, working with officers across various incidents and teams across the force. From a call handler perspective, this involves being the first point of contact for the public and other agencies, including 999 and 101 calls, online crime reports, intelligence and general enquiries including both phone and online.
Dispatch Operators allocate incidents to police officers once they have been reported to the call handlers. This role involves regularly communicating with officers and providing them with as much information as possible on the job that is allocated to them.
If you are interested in the role of a Call Handler and Dispatch Operator, we are currently recruiting. To find out more about the role and apply, click here.
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