Improved call management will help police deliver more consistent service to community
Action taken by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to improve how it handles emergency and non-emergency calls from the public has been welcomed by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).
Inspectors found six of the eight recommendations aimed at improving the PSNI's call management arrangements had been achieved and the remaining two partially achieved when they returned to assess progress in spring 2015.
"First impressions are important for every customer and particularly for members of the public when they seek help from the police. How their initial contact is managed impacts on their level of confidence in the PSNI to assist them and helps set the scene for their subsequent experience," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"When CJI's original inspection report was published in 2012, Inspectors identified variations between staff skills and grades in different call management centres that impacted on the consistency of service delivery. This issue has been recognised by the PSNI and work undertaken by way of the Individual Performance Review system to address this.
"We would urge the PSNI to maintain a focus on staff skills and service delivery, particularly as a move from the current three-centre call management structure to a more centralised arrangement is likely in order to secure further efficiency and better service delivery," continued the Chief Inspector.
"Inspectors support the increased use of non-police staff in the role of dispatcher in place of police officers. The development of a bespoke course to train staff for this specific role is positive and we would encourage the PSNI to continue to pursue this goal, to enable more officers to return to front line policing duties," he added.
Mr McGuigan also praised the increased use of technology to provide important on-screen information, including local knowledge and call histories to assist call handlers with their decision making when dealing with emergency and non-emergency calls, though he acknowledged some inconsistencies in how calls were categorised remained.
"While the impact of changing to an 11 district command model aligned with the new council structures was still being felt when fieldwork for this follow-up review was carried out, it is encouraging that 75% of recommendations had been fully achieved and progress made in relation to those which remained.
"I would urge the PSNI to continue to build upon current call management performance in order to meet the current financial challenges of maintaining its service to the community with diminishing resources," concluded the Chief Inspector.