Keeping you connected
As many of you will know I am currently conducting a Public Contact Survey, to give Dorset residents a chance to feedback their views on how ‘connected and engaged’ they feel when it comes to their police service.
For my newsletter this week, I would like to give you a look inside one element of how public contact works, by handing this platform over to one of the Force's Contact Officers, so he can tell you a bit about what the job involves and why he does it.
My name is Tony and I have been a non-emergency Contact Officer for Dorset Police for nearly three years. Before becoming a Contact Officer, my background was really nothing to do with policing. I worked as a technical illustrator for 15 years before moving into advertising and then eventually going self-employed. After so many years, I became a bit disillusioned by it all, I was tired of always doing the same thing and decided I needed a change.
I think it was in 2019, we were watching ‘999: What’s Your Emergency’ on the TV and I thought I could do that. My friends and family agreed. It was something completely different. Around this period I had been volunteering for a homeless charity, Routes to Roots, and discovered I was getting something out of it that I liked. I enjoyed being able to help others. I’ve always had a personality where I looked out for vulnerable people, I’m all about fairness and hate injustice.
I’m a strong believer that once you can picture yourself doing something, you have to give it a try. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life thinking ‘what if’. So, I went to a recruitment open evening and then applied for the job. It took me two attempts to get in, but I did it and I never looked back.
I love my job; I think it’s the fulfilment you get from it that I love the most. I think I could count on one hand the days over the past three years when I have come home and thought “that was too much” or “that was a bad day”. Even then, it’s not because of the subject matter, it's normally due to someone being rude on the phone or just generally having a bad day. 98% of the time I get home and think “that was a really good days’ work”. I love the variety of the job. You never know what you are going to get on any given day. Yet there is also a strict structure that you can rely on. You don’t know what the calls going to be, but once you’ve got it, there are set ways of dealing with it and there is a process you are going to follow.
Being a non-emergency Contact Officer is different to answering 999 calls, it’s a bit more involved than 999, we are still having to identify and deal with threat risk and harm but we get too take it further, dig a little deeper, we have to record all the details and essentially start the investigation by asking the right questions. Finding out the who, what and where, as well as if there are any suspects or lines of enquiry. It’s more than just that though. We don’t just deal with the presented issue; we are always looking for vulnerabilities. We might not be able to do something about every specific issue; if there isn’t the evidence or any lines of enquiry, but we can support the caller by involving their Neighbourhood Policing Teams or offer Victim Support or get officers to check on them and ensure they are safeguarded.
For the first time, in a long time, I feel very confident in my job. All your actions are checked by a supervisor, so you know you always have that back up around you. Even though we work independently, it’s good to know everything is verified and checked. There is also such a great team around you. The group I trained with 3 years ago all stay in contact with each other. We were such a mixed bag with people in their 20’s right up to 57-year-old, all from different backgrounds - yet Dorset Police managed to bring us all together and we have created some really strong bonds.
I think a lot of people overlook becoming a Contact Officer and working in the control room as it’s not on the front line. For me, I knew when I was looking for a change in my career, I couldn’t train to be a doctor or medic, I am beyond those years of training, but I knew I could learn to take calls and still be helping people. I’m glad I made the change. I consider myself to have been very fortunate, I look forward to coming into work every day, and believe this is the best job I have ever had.
I’d like to thank Tony for sharing his passion for his work with us, I hope you have found his story insightful. Again, I’d like to invite you to take my Public Contact Survey, tell me your thoughts and help shape the future of police contact in Dorset and if you would like to find out more about working for Dorset Police – please go online here.
Take the Public Contact Survey here.