A Peep Inside the World of Force Contact

The role:

West Midlands Police is hiring Contact Officers to work within its busy Force Contact department.

Contact Officers need to be ready to deal with 999 and 101 calls from members of the public 24/7.

Officers on the ground need as much information as possible to respond to calls for help and Contact Officers have the crucial task of communicating with callers and carefully recording that information.

In Force Contact, the actions taken during those critical first minutes of an incident will shape the Force’s initial response and give guidance to the subsequent allocation of resources.

Zoes momThe Contact officer:

Force Contact centre jobs can be highly exciting career paths and in this short interview we meet Susan Coward a contact officer with West Midlands Police who gives us a  glimpse into the world of a Contact Officer.

1) How long have you worked for WMP in Force Contact?

I started working for West Midlands Police in March 2009 in Force Contact and the last seven years have gone in a blink of an eye.

2) Do you remember the first call you took?

Yes!  It was domestic abuse call.  I took all the information passed it on to the nearest station and they were able to send officers quickly to help the caller.

I was really nervous when I first started but I was fully supported by the team. You’re not just thrown you in at the deep end. In the early days I shadowed colleagues and was able to listen in to calls to get a sense of what it was all about.  You are also trained in how to grade a call in terms of urgency and the steps you have to take. There is a lot to remember but it soon becomes second nature.

3) What’s it like working for WMP?

Fantastic!  It’s a great place to work and there is a lot of opportunity for people to develop their career in a range of different areas but all with the same goal of helping to make a difference for the communities we serve.

4) What’s it like working in Force Contact?

Challenging, rewarding, different, supportive, caring, busy! It’s also very flexible.  I’m 64 and I work two days a week on a Saturday and Sunday night.

When you join the department you are assigned to a unit and you all work the same shifts.  I work with a fab team and have made some great friends while here.

There is also a feeling of being well supported by the force and the department.  There is monthly training to keep you up to date with any changes in force policy or legislation and to ensure all of our skills are kept fresh and up to date.

5) What do you like about your role?

The variety – you have no idea what call will be coming in through your headset.

I work a 10 hour shift and it flies and it is true no shift is ever the same.

The calls are so varied – it can be anything and everything.  Working in Force Contact gives you a window into the world of policing – and it’s great to be even just a small part of it.

6) What skills do you need to be a contact officer?

I think you need to be calm and have effective and adaptable communication skills.

You need to be able to work quickly and be comfortable with making important decisions under pressure.

7) Can you run us through a call?

The first thing you Zoes momdo is ask the caller a number of questions to determine the priority of the situation. You log the details of the call, for example, where the caller is, the type of call it is, the seriousness of the incident, how many people are involved and their ages. While you do collect all of that information you try and keep the caller calm. If needed, you also contact other emergency services such as the ambulance or fire service.

8) Most memorable phone call?

There are so many it’s hard to pick just one. Some of the more sad calls are the ones with the most vulnerable.

I remember one call where the gentleman had dementia and had forgotten that his wife had died and called to report her missing.  We had details of him on the system and local officers were able to contact his family and to get round to his house quickly. For me, that call really highlighted the caring side of policing that perhaps people don’t see or get to read about in the press.

9) What’s the most satisfying thing about your role?

It might sound clichéd but it really is knowing you have helped someone. I take a lot of satisfaction in knowing I have helped someone in a crisis, being their first point of contact. They can be emotional but being able to calm them down whilst getting the information you need to ensure a rapid police response is a mini achievement in itself.

10) Any frustrations?

The biggest frustration is people that misuse the 999 system. The force has run many campaigns but the reality is that these calls stop people from getting the help they need.

11) Do you feel like you make a difference?

Absolutely. That’s one of the great things about working here – every day you are part of something special and you are for the most part helping people when they need it most.

12) Any Advice?

I’d say, come with an open mind, be yourself, and don’t be fazed by the idea of a ‘big organisation’ or working for the police. I think people have a lot of assumptions about what working for the police would be like which are quite different to the reality. The thing is, behind any organisation, it’s ultimately just people. And, as I found when I joined, we’re fortunate to have a really warm and friendly group of them here at WMP.