Interview with a Dispatcher

The role: 

West Midlands Police (WMP) is hiring Dispatchers to work within its busy Force Contact department.

Dispatchers work alongside WMP Contact Officers in Force Contact and pick up the baton once a call for help has been initially dealt with by a Contact Officer. Dispatchers have the critical role of managing police resources on the ground and deciding which officers are sent to which call for help.

Like their Contact Officer colleagues who answer the call for help dispatchers need to be ready to deploy a resource to incidents 24/7.

Dispatchers are the invisible link between the public and the police as they ensure the nearest and the right police resource are sent to an incident.

Too often Police Dispatchers play a vital role in ensuring public safety by deploying the best resource in an incredibly demanding environment which is not always seen or recognised.

As well as being the conduit between the police and the public they are also the lifeline for the boots on the ground ensuring their safety and able to send in extra resources quickly if the situation warrants it.

Being a dispatcher requires considerable patience, professionalism and the ability to multi task; remaining calm to give as much information to the officer on the ground whilst simultaneously managing resources.

Effective people skills, information gathering, disseminating information to officers as well as remembering officer locations and continually adjusting priorities is at heart of being an effective dispatcher.

Dispatcher Jack Challinor

Meet the Dispatcher:

Force Contact centre jobs can be highly exciting career paths and in this short interview we meet Jack Challinor a Dispatcher with West Midlands Police who gives us a flavor for the role and what it takes to succeed.

How long have you been a dispatcher?

I’ve been in this role with WMP for 12 months – and I love it.

What made you decide to apply for the role?

I’m already a special constable for another force and I was keen to see the difference between the two sides – from being an officer on the ground being sent to an incident to the person that actually sends them. The role gives great insight into the fantastic role the police do every day and the workings behind the scene that help police officers to deliver a first class service to the communities they serve.

Any really memorable calls?

They are all so memorable and so different at the same time! I think the most memorable ones are where you have to make a call back to people to illicit further information, to ensure the right resources are sent, from people who are already in a difficult situation.

Talk me through a call:

The initial emergency call will go via 999 or 101 and the caller will be connected to a Contact Officer. The Contact Officer will get the initial set of detail, grade the call as to whether or not it’s an immediate and then it’s over to me the dispatcher to send the most appropriate police resource.

To help us to be able to do that, we have at our fingertips a number of maps that allow us to see where all of our police resources are at any one moment.

It’s a very quick paced environment as we have to get the officers to an incident as quickly as possible.

We decide how many officers we send and the types of officers and we have direct contact with the officers that we send.

What’s it like being a dispatcher?

It’s hard work and it is fast paced. You need to be quite focused to do it but it’s so rewarding as you know you are making a difference and getting help to people when they need it the most.

What’s it like working in Force Contact?

The people are great, the pay is good and I find the job enjoyable – no two days are the same so it certainly keeps you on your toes!

What about working for the wider WMP?

It’s great to be part of the wider West Midlands Police – to be part of a big organisation. You get to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different roles who are all working towards the same goal to help people and to make a positive different.

What do you like about your role?

I really enjoy this job – it’s a great role to give you a real insight into police work and you know that every day you are helping people.  There is no better feeling than that.

I also like the diversity – every day I learn something new. From one call to the next it’s always different and it tests you to how you deal with it personally.

What skills do you need?

You need to be patient, to be able to multi task and you need to be able to give clear instructions, be strong in your convictions and be good at decision making. You also need to be calm and articulate.

Where did you work before?

I was a waiter and chef at Pizza Hut for two years – but the skills I learned there were transferable to this role. Working as part of a team, making decisions all helped.  But it just goes to show that you can transfer skills so you shouldn’t think “But I’ve never worked in this type of role before.”  I think people can surprise themselves at how the skills they have developed in other jobs can be put to excellent use in this job.

Any advice for people thinking about applying?

Don’t be frightened – there are plenty of people to help you and you get lots of training. You have eight weeks of initial training and in the last 12 months I’ve had three sets of additional training. The force makes sure you feel confident and part of that is knowing you are not alone and have a wider team to support you.