Want to contact the police?Send them an e-mail …

Date: Friday 21st July 2017

TELEPHONE callers struggling to get through to Cumbria police on the 101 number should instead send an e-mail, the county’s police and crime chief has suggested.

Mounting a passionate defence of the 101 non-emergency hotline, Peter McCall said the service — which receives 25,000 calls a month — was nowhere near as “bad” as headlines suggested.

He was facing a cross-party panel of councillors in Penrith on Tuesday who quizzed him on his work as the county’s police and crime commissioner.

He said 70 per cent. of calls were answered within three minutes and only during high demand periods were people waiting 20 minutes. External experts are now being brought into Cumbria police’s headquarters at Carleton Hall, Penrith, to look at the issues, he said.

Describing the 101 system as “probably the bugbear of my life”, he added: “I know more about 101 statistics than I ever cared to. I get a weekly read out about how it’s performing.” The 101 problem was not exclusive to Cumbria but was the fault of high demand, he said. “We’re pushing much more use of e-mail. As long as people have access to e-mail, there’s no reason they shouldn’t use it.”

Peter McSweeney, a Liberal Democrat representing South Lakeland District Council on the panel, said the 101 service in his ward had stopped working. Vodafone had identified a fault with the exchange and Mr. McSweeney suggested the IT department at Cumbria police needed to take the issue up with the company.

“Well. we don’t run Vodafone,” replied Mr. McCall. Mr. McSweeney said: “There’s a passing on of a problem here when I would have thought it is your problem.” Mr. McCall said: “I don’t control Vodafone. Neither do the police.”

The 101 service has been subject to complaints since its roll-out in April, 2016. Previously, calls to the force control room were dealt with by 54 civilian call handlers. But this was changed because police officers were being sent to incidents they did not need to attend.

The new idea tabled by police bosses involved 70 working police officers staffing a new “command and control centre” to try and resolve calls as they came in, using legal and policing knowledge.

Mr. McCall told the panel that the police are trying to better match the workforce to the peak flow of calls, and better software could be a longer term solution. “Half of the problem is this dog has got a bad name now,” said Mr. McCall. “It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s very difficult for the dog to dispel that bad name. It’s just an easy one now for people to have a pop at the police about. We really do need to have some reality about it.”

The 101 e-mail address is 101cumbria.police.uk.