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  • Writer's pictureAndy Oldham

Police Control Rooms

Ever wondered what goes on in a police control room?

When someone calls the police needing help, it's answered by call takers in the appropriate police force. They are taking calls from the public and other agencies 24/7 - see my other blog post for more information about call takers.

Once the information about the call is on the system, and the call taker thinks it needs some sort of police response, then it pops up on a screen in the control room. And that's when the controller assesses what's needed. This can be anything from sending police resources on an immediate / 999 response, to notifying other agencies who are better placed to deal with the call (such as the ambulance service, or mental health agencies), through to no police attendance at all, if appropriate.

If a police unit needs to attend, they look on the CAD system (Computer Aided Dispatch - not every force uses the same system) at what units are available, choose an appropriate unit (for example it might need a specialist unit such as a dog van, or a traffic car) and then call them up on the radio and assign the job to them.

Depending on the type of job, they might have to find and assign multiple units in very short order. They used to have to give all the details of the job, including the location, over the radio, but these days with in-car technology officers can look at what's on the CAD report themselves, so they're better briefed when they get there.

Firearms jobs are a particular specialisation, requiring the involvement of a Tactical Firearms Commander (TFC) and specialist armed units - see my other post on deployment of firearms officers if you're interested to learn more.

Even once those units are despatched, they'll be calling up with requests for other information, or additional units or resources, depending on the job. The controller has to manage and arrange all of this, juggling the needs of this job against potentially numerous others that are running at the same time. It can be a rewarding, stressful, and busy job! Most forces use civilian staff in call taker and controller roles.

Overseeing all of this will be a supervisory team - usually a police officer of at least Inspector rank, with deputies who will provide support to the controllers.

The Police Advisor: If your next Film or TV Production, Script, Book or Story is portraying a police control room, then let me help you to get the right look and/or terminology to give your piece that extra authenticity it deserves!


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