West Midlands Police is set to improve the handling of its non-emergency calls with the launch of two new contact centres today.
All such calls will now be dealt with by staff in one of the two contact centres based at police HQ Lloyd House in Birmingham and West Bromwich police station.
Cutting edge technology has also been installed in the contact centres, including updated telephony and IT systems allowing the force to build a picture of repeat callers and any vulnerability.
For the first time, Contact Officers have access to digital mapping, priority areas and information on local neighbourhood teams giving vital detailed local knowledge where callers are from the West Midlands.
The re-configuration from 10 to two sites will save the force £3.9m year-on-year from 2014/15 onwards and has seen the recruitment of 100 police staff.
93 police officers will be deployed back to the front line as the contact centres will be run entirely by police staff, supporting the Police and Crime Commissioner’s decision to return officers to operational roles.
From today the force will adopt a single model approach to non-emergency calls via the 101 number. Under the previous model a call would go into a central switchboard and would then be passed onto one of the 10 local policing unit contact centres. Now, the first available person, a Contact Officer from either site, will be able to answer calls at the first point of contact.
Commenting on the changes, head of Force Contact, Chief Superintendent James Andronov, said: “This is an exciting time for the force. The move to a single model approach will mean a more consistent high quality service. The first available contact officer from either site will be able to help callers at the first point of contact.
“Contact Officers can make the decision on the policing response to a call, be that offering advice over the phone, sending an officer or arranging an appointment – giving callers to the force a swifter and more efficient service. Staff have undergone training specifically for the new role in our contact centres. Our telephone systems have been updated allowing us to identify repeat callers and to make crucial vulnerability assessments immediately.”
The changes are aimed at further improving the number of calls answered within the target time of 30 seconds as well as improving the quality of service. Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones said: “Our contact centres are at the heart of the service we deliver and are our communities’ first window into the force. We recognise that the way that we handle calls in our contact centres has a significant impact on the public’s sense of trust and confidence in policing. The planned changes are very much focused on delivering an improved service.
“Introducing these new IT systems, such as the new telephony system, allowing us to build a picture of repeat callers, and ARLS so we can ensure officer safety whilst being able to deploy the nearest resource, will help to improve the service we deliver .
“Whilst making these changes we have been able to make significant savings but perhaps more importantly we have been able to create new jobs and put officers firmly back on the beat.
The Commissioner also stressed that, “Contact Centre staff will continue to work with and send local officers to calls for help. There will be no change to the delivery of local policing. Officers and PCSOs will continue to respond to calls in their area and deliver neighbourhood policing to communities.”
Emergency calls for help will continued to be answered via 999 from Bournville Lane police station.