Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said there is ‘no complacency whatsoever’ in the force as it seeks to improve waiting times on its non-emergency helpline.
Peter McCall, the county’s PCC, stressed to Cumbria County Council’s police and crime panel that Cumbria Police is “far, far better” than most police forces in the UK with its response time for 101 calls.
But he added that this is ‘not good enough’, especially for those who find themselves facing a wait when using the 101 non-emergency helpline, and said that improving waiting times remains a goal for the constabulary.
The average wait time for a caller to Cumbria’s 101 service is four minutes, though Mr McCall said that at particularly busy times waiting times can extend to between 30 and 40 minutes.
Mr McCall addressed a number of ‘spikes’ in wait times that occurred last month during his meeting with the council’s police and crime panel.
He explained that control room operator numbers had been temporarily reduced as a result of illness or self-isolation.
“The cops aren’t immune to Covid. We have had some instances of that,” he said.
In addition, September brought additional pressure to Cumbria Police’s control room in the form of assistance given to police control rooms in Manchester and Merseyside.
Mr McCall said when other nearby force areas are ‘absolutely inundated’ with emergency calls, further 999 calls can be diverted to Cumbria.
“On several occasions, in September in particular, our control room was taking 999 calls for Manchester and Merseyside,” Mr McCall said. “When they’re doing that, that takes operators off answering 101 calls.
Mr McCall said there was now about 80 staff attached to the force’s control room. He said the introduction of ‘live chat’ between 101 operators and members of the public - is also being considered.