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Shortly after 5.15pm, a call is put through to Jasmine Freer, one of the many call handlers working within CMD. It’s a paramedic who has attended an address in Leicester where an elderly woman has unfortunately died. He must obtain an incident number to pass on to the coroner. There aren’t any suspicious circumstances, but Jasmine must go through a set list of questions in order to log the incident.
Once that’s logged, the phone goes again. It’s a man stating police have attended his parents’ address and would like to speak to him. He doesn’t know why they visited, but he passes on details and is informed they may get back in touch.
Again, it’s not much longer before another call comes through – from the manager of a restaurant. It’s an unusual call. The manager says a customer’s card has been declined and he asks Jasmine for advice – what should he do? Jasmine explains that it’s a civil issue, and is up to the customer and manager to resolve.
Just after 5.50pm, a call is received from a man reporting that a car has hit his fence. Rather than take details herself, Jasmine transfers him straight through to the force’s crime bureau. This means a criminal report can be created straight away and an investigation can begin.
As the clock nears 6pm, calls continue to come in at a fast pace across the department – and it’s no different for Jasmine. First it’s a woman reporting a domestic incident, whereby she has been intimidated. An incident log is created. No sooner is that dealt with, then it’s a call of a very different nature. A man calls, having earlier reported his car stolen – only it hasn’t been – he forgot where he parked it and has since found it. The earlier log can be closed.
Not every call to CMD is a report of a new incident. The role often requires handlers to log new information, which in turn can be passed on to the investigating officers. Shortly after 6.20pm, Jasmine takes a call from a woman who has previously reported antisocial behaviour. She has more detail about the people she thinks are involved. Jasmine adds this to the running log.
“What I enjoy about the role is that I do feel like I’m making a difference,” she says.
“It sounds easy to say, but every day is different. Whatever shift you’re on, you don’t know what you’re walking in to – you don’t know what that next call is going to be about.
“It’s a role that involves speaking to members of the public. More often than not, you’re their first point of contact. They’ve called because they require help. When you finish, you are left with a feeling knowing you’ve been able to provide that help.
During the course of the evening, there are a couple of 999 calls passed through – from BT operators based all over the UK – which are abandoned before being transferred to Leicestershire.
“We always try and call back to check everything is okay,” adds Jasmine. “Sometimes people don’t answer, so we leave a voicemail. Sometimes they’ve called by mistake and apologise.”
There are also some calls which can be difficult.
“We do get people who call us and can be quite angry and aggressive. You’ve just got to stay calm and be patient,” says Jasmine.
By now it’s nearly 7pm, and another call is picked up. A woman is reporting that someone has forced the door of a communal entrance to the block of flats where she lives. Questions are asked – is there CCTV available? Have any flats been broken into? All information is entered on a log and the caller is given an incident number.
Also based in the control room are a team of chief inspectors and inspectors, who oversee incidents and operational activity.
Mike Phillips (pictured below) is one of those inspectors.
“Contact handlers are fundamental to most incidents we deal with,” he says.
“While they can be involved in some of the most mundane matters, handlers also deal with some of the most serious crimes imaginable. They’re the first point of contact and are tasked with asking probing questions, assessing risks and making decisions.
“The role involves being the initial investigator for crimes, missing people and road traffic collisions. The evidence they gather in that early stage often leads to prosecutions and convictions at court.”
So, to ask the question again, could you?
“The role can be challenging,” adds Mike. “It involves dealing with conflict and stressful situations. On some occasions, handlers will need a good degree of resilience.
“But the role is incredibly rewarding and contact handlers do genuinely make a positive difference on a daily basis. The role comes with a good salary, pension and generous benefits. If you think you can help make a difference, then I would encourage you to apply.”