Posted: Friday 3rd October 2014
I’ve always felt that a core part of the understanding between the police and the public is that the police will always be there for you when you need them. Of course they are always there in your communities but a lot of people rightly expect to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone at a time convenient to them.
This is why in recent weeks I’ve become increasingly concerned about the challenges currently being faced by the police in responding to your non-emergency calls. We need to be clear from the start that we’re talking about the 101 non-emergency number. Last week, 47% of non-emergency calls were answered within the target of 60 seconds and the average queue length was around one minute 48 seconds. It also prompted almost 1,800 people to abandon their call altogether. Our communities expect and deserve better AND I know the police are as determined as I am that they do better. I’ve been reassured they are doing all they can to improve.
Perhaps it is useful to provide some context, not as an excuse but to recognise what the call centre teams and frontline officers have to deal with. Last week there were more than 16,000 calls to the 101 non-emergency number from people reporting crime, giving information or seeking assistance. However, as well as the daily business the call centre is also at the mercy of the ebb and flow of demand created by major incidents. On top of a period of unprecedented call demand across the country, last week, for example, they received calls about the burst pipe in Kingswood which had to be directed to Bristol Water and recently took calls on behalf of another force when that force had some technical issues. This is also a time of organisational change and staff turnover which, albeit a temporary situation, is undoubtedly compounding the issue.
The communications team and frontline officers and staff are working very hard in challenging circumstances to answer and respond to your calls. If you do need to call 101 I’d ask you to be patient and understand that when someone answers the phone they want to help you and will do their best to help you even it has taken them a little longer than it should have done for your call to be answered. I’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on this issue and having regular and frequent updates.
Elsewhere this week, I’ve been busy lending my support to three other key issues which I know are important to the Bristol community. On Tuesday I attended a meeting with the police and some of our partners to discuss where we are with stop and search. This is an issue people regularly speak to me about and action is being taken to improve this area – watch this space. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about how that meeting has locally influenced stop and search soon but feel free to contact me with your thoughts.
This was followed later in the week by two events looking at child abuse. The first was a multi-agency review I’d asked the police to host looking at the report into Rotherham and making sure that everything possible is being done to tackle child sexual exploitation. The second was a national conference being held in Bristol on FGM and showcasing the city’s approach to tackling the issue. I’m sure you’d agree with me that these are two critical issues and which needs continual improvement from everyone, not just the police.
Until next time,