Tony – non-emergency contact officer
I have been a Non-Emergency Contact Officer for Dorset Police for nearly three years. Before becoming a Contact Officer, my background was really nothing to do with policing having worked as a technical illustrator for 15 years before moving into advertising and then eventually going self-employed. After so many years, I became a bit disillusioned by it all, I was tired of always doing the same thing and decided I needed a change.
I think it was in 2019 when I was watching ‘999: What’s Your Emergency’ on the TV and I thought I could do that. My friends and family agreed. It was something completely different. It was around this period that I had been volunteering for a homeless charity, Routes to Roots, and discovered I was getting something out of it that I liked. I enjoyed being able to help others. I’ve always had a personality where I looked out for vulnerable people, I’m all about fairness and hate injustice.
I’m a strong believer that once you can picture yourself doing something, you have to give it a try otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life thinking ‘what if’. So, I went to a recruitment open evening and then applied for the job. It took me two attempts to get in, but I did it and I never looked back.
I love my job; I think it’s the fulfilment you get from it that I love the most. I think I could count on one hand the days over the past three years when I have come home and thought ‘that was too much’ or ‘that was a bad day’. Even then, it’s not because of the subject matter, it's normally due to someone being rude on the phone or just generally having a bad day. I would say 98 per cent of the time I get home and think ‘that was a really good days work’.
I love the variety of the job. You don’t know what the call is going to be, but once you’ve answered the call there are set ways of dealing with it and there is a process you need to follow.
Being a Non-Emergency Contact Officer is different to answering 999 calls because it’s a bit more involved than taking an emergency call. You still have to identify and deal with threat risk and harm but we get to take the call further, dig a little deeper, record all the details and essentially start the investigation by asking the right questions. Finding out the who, what and where, as well as if there are any suspects or lines of enquiry. It’s more than just that though. We don’t just deal with the presented issue; we are always looking for vulnerabilities. We might not be able to do something about every specific issue if there isn’t the evidence or any lines of enquiry, but we can support the caller by involving officers from their neighbourhood policing team, offer access to Victim Support or get officers to check on them and ensure they are safeguarded.
For the first time in a long time, I feel very confident in my job. All your actions are checked by a supervisor, so you know you always have that back up around you. Even though we work independently, it’s good to know everything is verified and checked. There is also such a great team around you. The group I trained with three years ago all stay in contact with each other. We were such a mixed group with people aged in their 20s right up to 57 and from all from different backgrounds – yet Dorset Police managed to bring us all together and we have created some really strong bonds.
I think a lot of people overlook becoming a Contact Officer and working in the control room as it’s not on the frontline. For me, I knew when I was looking for a change in my career that I couldn’t train to be a doctor or medic, but I knew I could learn to take calls and still help people. I’m glad I made the change. I consider myself to have been very fortunate because I look forward to coming into work every day, and believe this is the best job I have ever had.