When you think of the word Oscar you might imagine a lavish film ceremony, but in the policing world that word means something completely different.
I am one of Bedfordshire Police’s Oscar Ones and work in the Force Contact Centre which answers all the incoming 999 and 101s calls, from bike thefts to suspected terrorist incidents. I am an Inspector and have been working as a police officer for 28 years now and would say this is probably the most challenging job I have done. I have to make decisions on a daily basis which are literally a matter of life and death. My job is to review all incidents coming in that require a police response and balance the severity of those incidents against the number of police officers we have available in the force. To put an Oscars slant on it, we are continually assessing which jobs will go into the nominations categories and the incidents with the greatest risk will naturally get an immediate response.
Together with my team, I have to decide what level of risk is known or can be anticipated and this will determine whether we send an officer, make an appointment, record and investigate the crime or give advice. In Bedfordshire Police, we use a system known to us as THRIVE which helps us to identify risk and vulnerability. We consider the initial crime investigation and our contact centre staff are quick to help response officers with a range of tasks from vehicle recovery to working with CCTV to capture a wanted criminal.
The police play a leading role in many mental health scenarios where vulnerability has been identified. It is a fine balancing act between police, health and social care partnerships and there is still a great deal of knowledge and understanding required. Our work has migrated into areas; child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, terrorism and at the same time we are trying to provide the best possible service in the sensitive areas such as domestic abuse and missing people.
THRIVE is a really good way for us to look at incidents and provide a rationale for the decisions Oscars have to make. In my time doing the Oscar One job there’s never been an case where I’ve thought I should have made a different decision. I carry a huge personal responsibility not to put someone’s life in danger. There are often many different ways to cut the pie and I am always reviewing incidents with colleagues to make sure I have thought through all possible options and outcomes. I often have to cross my fingers and hold my nerve . A few minutes can sometimes be a very long time when we are trying to find someone. I am only human and sometimes circumstances are a little too close to home, I am conscious of previous incidents where some dreadful things have happened. A notable example of this is the death of my friend and colleague PC Jon Henry who was fatally stabbed while on duty in 2007. I subconsciously think of him every time I deploy an officer to a knife incident.
We deal with around 1,000 101 calls and 250 999 calls a day on average, with a very small team answering and dealing with these calls. As well as the call handlers taking the calls, we have radio agents dispatching officers to jobs across the county and radio support officers supporting the agents by making call backs, keeping relatives informed, recovering vehicles and calling out other emergency services. Oscar One is assisted by two Oscar Twos who are worth their weight in gold. If the Oscar Twos don’t know something about the contact centre then it’s probably not worth knowing! They do everything from sorting out IT problems to authorising vehicle pursuits.
Oscar Ones are Inspectors and have an operational background. We are the ones who make the decision on whether to deploy a firearms unit. Oscar Twos have a background in the force contact centre and often have experience as Special Constables or have been dispatchers. We work very well with each other and our teams. To put a movie spin on our role, some days are high energy and feel like action movies, some days are a mix of comedy, horror, mystery and drama. I am rather partial to a superhero film and we get to play a bit part in those too from time to time.
I still look forward to coming into work each day which shows there is something special about working for Bedfordshire Police, this is tantamount to the great team spirit of the force, where we work to do the right thing every day.