Alexandra Rowles is one of our Force Control Room (FCR) dispatch operatives. She spends each shift deploying police officers to calls from the public – here’s an insight into her job and why she loves it.
I’ve been with Northamptonshire Police since 2015 and spent my first 18 months taking 101 and 999 calls before I moved into the world of dispatch. This role involves sending the appropriate officers to callers who are most in need of police help, while also assessing all the other incidents waiting for deployment and making sure the risks involved aren’t increasing.
You can be sending officers to a neighbour dispute, a burglary, a domestic, a road traffic collision, a missing person, a fight with weapons or a concern for a person’s welfare, all of which need a different level of response each and every day.
It’s not just the public that the dispatch team talk to, we also liaise with the fire and ambulance services, council social services, highways, other police forces and more. We also make sure officers heading out to jobs have as much information as possible so they are prepared when they arrive.
A career full of challenges
Before I joined the Force I was working in catering after doing a drama degree, and the call handler job advert immediately appealed to me - I’ve always enjoyed helping people and was already a fan of the emergency services. Added to that, I work well under pressure and enjoy talking to different people, both vital skills for this job!
At the start of my FCR training I was worried I had no in-depth knowledge of the law, but the training covers what you need to know, as well as different policies and offences. You also get training in how to speak to someone who is feeling suicidal, which prepared me for one of the first calls I ever took, from a man who said he was going to jump in a lake after taking tablets and alcohol. He ended the call and I had to encourage him back onto the phone and keep talking to me.
Knowing you’ve made a difference
As a call handler one of my proudest moments was making sure we got officers to a woman who was being attacked by her partner. She’d dialled 999 but hung up before the call was transferred to us. Using our systems I saw she’d previously been a victim of domestic violence, so I sent the incident to dispatch then called back and spoke to the woman, logging information which was passed to the officers who were on their way. Then I heard them arrive and arrest the man. It was great to know she was safe – just in time.
In my current role, another great moment came after I’d deployed officers to a business break-in, and then used the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems to identify vehicles which appeared to be travelling in convoy away from the scene. I then sent officers to the registered keeper’s address, where they found stolen items and made arrests.
For me, the best part of working in the FCR is leaving a shift knowing that the work you’ve done has made a difference to someone’s life. You might have assisted officers in arresting a violent suspect, or you might have spoken to someone at crisis point and managed to reassure and encourage them to tell you where they are so officers can find them. Every hour of every day is completely different, you never know what’s going to be reported at any time.