Police Scotland changes call handling procedures to better assess risk and vulnerability

Written by Jenni Davidson on 7 June 2019 in News

Frontline staff and officers will get specialist training to assess the “threat, risk, harm and vulnerability” for everyone who contacts the police

Police Scotland - Image credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images

Police Scotland is to change the way it handles calls to its 999 and 101 numbers.

Currently calls are automatically graded and a certain police response is required whether the caller wants it or not.

However, frontline call centre staff and police officers are now being given specialist training to assess the “threat, risk, harm and vulnerability” for everyone who contacts the police in Scotland.

The information provided will then be used to decide on the most appropriate police response to the call.

Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins, who is responsible for contact, command and control, said the changes would provide a better service to the public by taking more information that would allow for a “more robust assessment” of risk and vulnerability.

It would also help the force to despatch police officers to the most urgent incidents and the people who need it the most, he said.

The change follows criticisms of Police Scotland call handling procedures following a number of incidents, including the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell in 2015, where police failed to follow up on reports of a crash on the M9 for three days.

The new method of assessing calls was a recommendation made by HMICS in its 2015 review of Police Scotland call handling.

Hawkins said: “Our current response to calls to the 101 and 999 service is based on pre-determined policies, procedures and system grading.

“Effectively it is a ‘computer says go’ approach to how we respond to calls.

“However, this does not mean it is the right response for every individual, and in some cases we have to send officers when the caller does not want us to do this.

“Rather than having a 'one size fits all’ approach to certain types of calls, under the new approach, service advisers will take into account the needs and circumstances of everyone who contacts us.”

This could mean that police deal with the same type of call differently depending on the needs of the caller, for example, sending officers if an elderly person calls to report that their garden shed has been broken into, but setting up an appointment or arranging a call-back from an officer for someone who is less vulnerable.

“When you contact Police Scotland, the first thing we will do is make sure you are safe,” Hawkins added.

“Our focus is, and always will be, to protect the public and the most vulnerable in our communities. That won’t change.”

The new approach to call handling will be introduced in phases, starting with Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway in summer 2019, ahead of a roll-out across Scotland.

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