After 26 years in control rooms, Tom explains how much the role within policing has changed dramatically over the years

Tom Donohue, Customer Contact Centre Head at West Yorkshire Police shares his insight and experience of police contact centres over the years…

The call handler or contact Officer role within policing has changed dramatically since I started working in Police contact room 26 years ago!

The complexity of the role has increased over the years not just by way of the systems that we use (I remember “green screens!”) but also in terms of what the public expect and demand from us.

Missing person calls, for example, which take a long time to resolve are up 39% on last year and the number of calls relating to mental health issues are also increasing, these are also time consuming calls, but it is essential that we get this right if we are to truly protect the public, and all of the public.

We get our share of non-Police calls, callers who believe it is fine to ring the Police if they need a lift home (not always in drink) or the perennially favourite of the pizza delivery being late/not looking like it does on the menu, but the call handlers have to meet all the challenges they face, serious and silly, with professionalism, courtesy and with half an ear on trying to assess if the “silly” call is really a call for help, but the person is not in a position to speak freely.

I am very proud of the teams that I manage and how they rise to this challenge consistently and well

The APD event last year was fantastic and a real celebration of the work of the control rooms and contact centres and I am even more thrilled at the idea of a week event to celebrate these #UnsungHeroes, I would like to thank APD for their continued support in raising the profile of what is an increasingly difficult role in policing.

A recent note from our Chief Superintended, Owen West, below, puts it far better than I ever could.

Tom Donohoe, Customer Contact Centre Head

West Yorkshire Police, Chief Superintendent Owen West:

I’ve spent a little time today plugged in and listening to some calls coming in at the centre in Dudley Hill. I wanted to take the opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you for all your staff, regardless of where they work, for keeping the force afloat. Demand is, as everyone says, unprecedented and it is all coming into a relatively few people. In the distant past believe it or not I was a PC in one of the then area dispatch rooms so I can just about remember what it’s like to deal with irate, emotional, drunk and many other types of calls and callers. Not to mention the bobbies! What’s changed is the sheer volume of systems, tasks and notifications you now need to do. There isn’t a ‘simple’ call anymore as we (you) service the ‘industry’ of scrutiny and double checking that now goes on wherever there is contact between the public and the police.

I couldn’t do your job in this day and age so I am in awe how you do it, day in and day out, at all times of the day and night, weekends, bank holidays in the hectic summer days and the winter. Until you’ve sat in the chair and done this job it’s very difficult to understand the complexity, the routine stuff, the bizarre and the type of traumatic and horrible jobs that you all deal with every single day, many of which I am have no doubt you take home with you emotionally.

Your performance – how we help those that turn to us for help – is phenomenal, not a single abandoned nines in over a year (that’s never been done before in UK Policing, ever) and really strong 101 even when we support those forces that struggle to answer their nines. We don’t say thank you enough and we don’t step back from the day – to – day enough to recognise just how well you all cope and deliver a brilliant service to the public.

I can only end with an inadequate thank you but assure you it IS appreciated.

Owen West M.St. (Cantab)

Head of Operations Support

Thank Tom and the team by using #UnsungHeroes on social media. If you have a story, please email