News : Chief Constable Claims Emergency Call-handling Complaints Are ‘Scaremongering’
Edinburg, Scotland, June 26, 2015 -- Scotland’s top police officer has blasted "scaremongering" about the length of time being taken to answer 999 and 101 calls.
Emergency calls have taken up to three minutes to be picked up by staff in Edinburgh and hundreds of fed-up callers have hung up.
As we reported, police statistics have also revealed high sickness absence rates among police officers and staff in the service centre.
Chief Constable Stephen House admitted there had been performance issues at Bilston Glen, the new east Scotland contact, command and control centre, which began taking calls from Fife in March.
But he said: "We are getting negative comments and what I consider to be scaremongering by a number of figures around Scotland."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie warned of "horror stories" from staff of calls on hold for up to 40 minutes when the Glenrothes call centre closed, and said this week’s figures showed the force is in crisis.
Mr House said there had "undoubtedly been some performances issues" in the east area, particularly at Bilston Glen.
But he added: "It really irritates me when people who want to make some headlines just decide to have another go at Police Scotland and the service centres and the staff then think they must be really bad."
He told the Scottish Police Authority: "I hope the facts that have been brought forward can provide some reassurance to yourselves and, more importantly, to the public that the problem has been gripped very, very quickly and standards of performance being delivered by staff and officers in control and service centres really is first class."
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Mr Rennie said: "My criticism of the chief constable should never be read as criticism of control room staff. He should not seek to hide behind control room staff but take the criticism on board.
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"Police Scotland’s mishandling of the centralisation of control room functions to Bilston Glen has put extraordinary pressure on staff, which is one of the causes of the high sickness rates. Waiting times are excessive for emergency as well as non-emergency calls."
In one week in May, one 999 call took three minutes to be answered and 9% of emergency calls took longer than the 10-second target to pick up.
Later in the month a non-emergency 101 call was on hold for more than 11 minutes.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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