South Yorkshire Police issue plea to take pressure off call handlers to speed up response times

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South Yorkshire Police is asking the public to do their bit to take pressure off call handlers so emergency response times can improve.

In a frank appeal for help published today (May 23), the force says their control room – held together by civilian police staff – is fighting to handle the weight of calls arriving day and night.

The appeal shines a spotlight on Harvinder, who has been a contact resolution officer for 16 years.

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Harvinder has been a call handler for South Yorkshire Police's Force Control Room for 16 years.Harvinder has been a call handler for South Yorkshire Police's Force Control Room for 16 years.
Harvinder has been a call handler for South Yorkshire Police's Force Control Room for 16 years.

She said: “The main reason I wanted to work here was to make a difference to people. I used to work for a not-for-profit organisation and then 16 years ago, I got married and moved to Sheffield. That’s when I applied for this job in SYP.”

The role of a contact resolution officer is varied. Every call is different – but some of these aren’t suitable for an emergency police response.

Examples include: “Help. There is a bat in my bedroom;” “I’ve been charged too much for my coffee” and “There is a chicken in the road.”

However, as Harvinder explains, control room staff can be faced with people in their worst moments.

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“Nobody ever rings the police for something good; you are dealing with people who need your help, and you need to lift some pressure off their shoulders,” she said.

“Much of my role is providing reassurance, calming people down, giving them instructions and advice in difficult situations.

“I was once on the phone to a woman who was being driven around by a group of men against her will. She had no idea where she was, and she was terrified. My job was to extract information to establish where she was, and what kind of danger she was in so officers could get to her quickly.”

The force control room usually receives over 2,000 calls per day, as well as reports through its online portal and live chat.

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Contact resolution officers then conduct assessments and ensure each call is dealt with properly to ensure there is no further risk.

Harvinder said: “You do feel pressure in the role, and there is a support in place to manage your wellbeing.”

In her 16 years with the force, Harvinder regularly acts up as a Team Leader to support her development.

She also works on the Digital Desk managing the force’s social media messages.

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She said: “I’m part time, I job share and the shifts fit around my life. There’s always resilience with overtime when I need it.”

Now, South Yorkshire Police is asking residents to apply for posts in its control room.

When asked what people should consider before applying, Harvinder explained: “Be prepared for variety – both in the calls you receive and the type of people you speak to.

“You are people’s first impression of South Yorkshire Police. If you want to help and you want to do something good, this is the place for you.”

More information is available on the South Yorkshire Police website under its staff vacancies tab.