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PSNI: There's a number of reasons when it is not necessary for officers to attend 999 call

Published 07/09/2015

The Belfast Telegraph revealed the number of emergency calls in which police do not send an officer to the scene has more than doubled over the last five years.

Chief Inspector Clive Beatty from Call Management said there are a "number of reasons when it is not necessary for officers to attend a 999 call".

He said: “All call handlers working in the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s three Call Management Centres are trained on how to deal with all telephone contact with members of the public in accordance with National Call Handling Standards

This involves using a Call Resolution Matrix to determine what type of police response the caller or incident needs based on four types of gradings: these are Early Resolution; Scheduled; Priority; and Emergency. This process is applied to all calls received through the emergency 999 system and the Non-Emergency 101 lines and informs what the police response should be.

A call or incident is graded as an emergency if a crime is in progress and if there could be a risk to life; use or immediate threat of use of violence; serious injury caused to a person; serious damage caused to property, or if an offender is disturbed at the scene, has been detained and poses a risk to other people.

Where possible, every call for service will be responded to, unless the caller specifically requests that we do not attend and there is no ethical obligation for us to do so.  However, there are a number of reasons when it is not necessary for officers to attend a 999 call. These include when members of the public have mistakenly made a non-emergency request via the 999 route, or if duplicate 999 calls are made. An example of this is if someone reports debris on the motorway and then several other motorists report the same debris. When this happens police will use the first call as the incident log and all details will be recorded on it rather than creating several logs for the one incident.

Silent and dropped 999 calls are recorded as emergencies but often it is children playing on the line, which the Call Handler can resolve without police intervention and another common occurrence is alarm activations for monitored Alarms.  These get recorded as emergency incidents but often the alarm company will call saying it is a false alarm.”

Explanation of the rise of non-attendance at 999 calls in 2014?:

"In 2014 the PSNI launched the new non-emergency 101 number which accounts for the drop in the total number of 999 calls received that year.

In the same period responsibility for answering 999 calls was transferred to a dedicated Call Handling team who were trained to record calls in accordance with National Call Handling Standards based on incident gradings.

This has resulted in all calls, including 999, being responded to appropriately depending on the actual nature of the incident rather than reflecting the way they were reported.

Low-level incidents, where the needs of the caller can be met without the input of police officers, are dealt with through Early Resolution even when the call originates via the 999 system. This is when Contact Management staff can record the incident or crime and if necessary, offer telephone advice or information, as well as signposting the member of the public to a more appropriate agency or service to ensure the enquiry is resolved to the caller’s satisfaction. 35% or more of the approximate 500,000 incidents reported to police each year can be resolved by this method.  This subsequently reduces demand on frontline officers and allows them to continue keeping people safe by deploying them to where they are most needed in terms of threat, harm and risk.”

How are calls categorised as emergency/non-emergency?

Chief Inspector Clive Beatty, Call Management said: “All call handlers working in the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s three Call Management Centres are trained on how to deal with all telephone contact with members of the public in accordance with National Call Handling Standards.

This involves using a Call Resolution Matrix to determine what type of police response the caller or incident needs based on four types of gradings: these are Early Resolution; Scheduled; Priority; and Emergency. This process is applied to all calls received through the emergency 999 system and the Non-Emergency 101 lines.
The matrix procedure directs the call handler along a structured pathway which informs what the police response should be depending on information available about the situation and the victim or caller.

A call or incident is graded as an emergency if a crime is in progress and if there could be a risk to life; use or immediate threat of use of violence; serious injury caused to a person; serious damage caused to property, or if an offender is disturbed at the scene, has been detained and poses a risk to other people.

Non-emergency is anything that is not deemed to be an emergency such as general enquiries, contacting local police, reporting a crime that has already happened, minor traffic collisions that do not require an emergency response, criminal damage that has already taken place and passing information on criminality (for example drugs or anti-social behaviour).

Non-emergency calls can be dealt with in a number of ways including Priority Attendance, Scheduled Attendance or Early Resolution.

A Priority Attendance is when there is a genuine concern for someone's safety; an offender has been detained but poses no risk to others; a witness or other evidence is likely to be lost; a person involved is vulnerable or a repeat victim of crime; or when Service or District priorities dictate it requires a priority response, eg a hate incident or crime.

Non-emergency incidents can also be dealt with through Scheduled Attendance when officers will arrange to attend the caller’s home or an appointment is made for the caller to attend a police station, clinic or surgery to discuss their needs or problems - which are not deemed to be urgent - at a time which suits them. This applies when it is not critical for police to attend a scene or incident to apprehend offenders or preserve evidence.

Low-level incidents, where the needs of the caller can be met without the input of police officers, are dealt with through Early Resolution.

"This is when Contact Management staff can record the incident or crime and if necessary, offer telephone advice or information, as well as signposting the member of the public to a more appropriate agency or service to ensure the enquiry is resolved to the caller’s satisfaction. 35% or more of the approximate 500,000 incidents reported to police each year can be resolved by this method.

"This subsequently reduces demand on frontline officers and allows them to continue keeping people safe by deploying them to where they are most needed in terms of threat, harm and risk.”

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