18 comments on “Knowledge is Everything

  1. Absolutely agree that if centralisation occurs local knowledge will be lost and sorely missed. I live in a rural area and it would be a retrograde step. Centralisation of ambulance call centres have not been a success. Local knowledge SO important.
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  2. Pingback: Knowledge is Everything | Police and Crime Commissioners | Scoop.it

  3. Hello CC

    I’m going to agree with you using the underused technique of appearing to disagree. 🙂

    If you are going to create a new call centre from scratch, and wind down six existing centres it’s going to cost a lot of money.

    Here is a rough list (but you can scroll past it if you like)

    Construction costs, obviously. (If you didn’t build a new centre, where has this magic extra space come from, and why were you paying out for this empty extra space all these years?)
    Equipment cost, even if you do a phased change over you still need to buy extra comms and IT kit.
    The same with the furniture, chairs, tables etc.
    And somebody has to move all the sundry stuff nobody thinks about, forms, stationery.
    Some kit may be so old that it’s cheaper to bin it than move it.
    You’ll need a team of techs to do all the relocation, testing and commisioning.
    In the pre-Airwave days, BT would be in for weeks sorting out the fixed lines, these days it’s handled slightly (but not much) better, still costs money though.
    You have all the admin of transferring staff from one place to the other (which always goes wrong).
    You will lose staff inevitably, so there are recruitment and training costs to add on.

    Now you have done all that there are six empty outstations.
    They have all got to be cleaned or refurbished before you can sell them off.
    Given the present economic situation there is an over supply of office space, so not worth much.
    You’ll get a bit more if you can sell to a developer with planning position in place.
    But you’ll need to shell out more money to get that done, and it could take years.
    Until sold I think you are still liable for insurance, business rates, physical security and maintaining the structure against vandals. (not 100% sure about the rates thing TBH).

    While I’m not an accountant (no I’m not really), I believe that lot will take you into a loss even on paper. And the only possible way it would make sense would be if; the outstations and all the kit were all so decayed and decrepit than they had all reached the end of their useful life and the repair cost exceeded the replacement cost.

    Trumpton tried this recently and it all went horribly, horribly wrong. It cost a shed load in they are still not in use years later.

  4. Now if we have established that it’s all going to cost a lot of money what are the benefits?

    Less equipment? No, if you were using it at 100% in the old place nothings changed.
    Less heat, light and power? No, unless you moved from and underground cave with it’s own glacier system.
    Less staff? No, if you needed X warm bodies to manage the workload, just moving won’t change that.
    Less supervision? Well this is where things get a little muddy, logically speaking, for every Y call staff, you need a “supervisor” (and for every Z supervisors you need a supervisor of supervisors etc.) Now the usual bit of financial jiggery pokery is to claim reduction in staff costs and “streamlining”. So either you had lots of people loafing about doing nothing, or it’s boll…s.

    Let me whip out my crystal ball, (ok, I’m lying about the ball but I’ve seen it before).
    It goes like this, they bin half the supervisors, because they are expensive and they do not directly improve your performance targets, they don’t answer phones or run radio channels. And it offends small minded people if they watch you supervising, how very dare you sit there monitoring the work of your team, picking up problems, dealing with the low priority stuff to take the pressure off, making sure everything is working, making sure people get their breaks (you know the legally entitled ones) and looking after your team when it gets hectic or griefy.

    A supervisor should look calm and serene, like the conductor of an orchestra just keeping everything moving on, everybody working away, with just a bit of direction every so often. But to those that have never done it, it looks easy. In fact it looks insultingly easy, everyone around you looks really busy doing “stuff”, and you appear idle. Because they cannot see how hard you are working mentally to keep everything going, they think it’s easy and you could cover more staff.

    Well they could not be more wrong, anyway they bin half the “expensive” supervisors and double the workload of those left, in a short time the system starts to struggle, then falter and if not caught in time breakdown. Service drops for both vics and cops, stress levels go up, morale is in the toilet, mistakes happen, because everyone is overworked, and when staff need the help of their supervisor they either have to wait causing delays, or they feel forced to guess or improvise. And that’s when it all unravels.

    So the wheel turns, and when the (non existent, no really, we really dropped them) performance targets plummet, or something bad happens, it’s panic stations in the head shed. And they employ (or even re-employ) a lot of new (and slightly cheaper) supervisors.

    So in summary, you spent loads of money to take a system that wasn’t broken, just to make it look tidy, and so it’s easier for you “to pop in” (and contribute exactly nothing) when you do your rounds. And have replaced it with a new set-up that is less resilient, noisier to work in, harder and more expensive for the staff to get to and from, and functions worse than the original. And all you really achieved was to shave a few thousand pounds off the wages bill for 12 weeks , given you had to pay out for redundant staff as well ,have a f…ing banana.

    Sorry CC, I got carried away.

  5. So true in what your saying. carn’t beat local knowledge and as you say some places have names that are not the real one but all the locals know it by that “other name” and can take you there straightaway !

    In Cheshire they are advertising for control room staff in the local paper? Why when the force advertise all vacancies on the web site. How much did the very large advert cost (at the end of the day I am paying for it too ) ?

    They were also thinking about merging the Fire Service Control room up in Cheshire to cover more than one county but that seems to have been put on the shelf for the moment.

  6. We have it here and its dire being forced to call the place covering a huge chunk of a devolved country. When you knew the number the the local division desk a swift description of an alley or lane got immediate recognition – now you get third degree just trying to establish your location.

    Same deal for the gas already handling calls in Newcastle for our part of the UK. Smelling gas I gave my location and was asked which of the 2 streets with that name it was in the area. Let’s say it got a bit heated trying to convince the operator that their screen was wrong and only one street with that name existed.

    It gets worse still when you deal with outsourced operations like many of the rail call centres, where their location is unlikely to generate staff with an inherited geographic knowledge of the places served by the rail network, with one refreshing wrinkle – it is almost impossible to outsource the Welsh speaking service (although the staff do work in Newcastle) and they have a much better grasp of things. Those totally reliant on screens have denied the existence of trains and whole railway routes even to the staff physically working there.

    All this drives policing and intelligence further from source, and perhaps you need to start a reverse movement to crowdsourced intellingence and social media to restore the beat ‘presence’ of a well spread interface with the public at large.

  7. Can’t believe this is still being done in the name of saving money. It doesn’t. There are plenty of costed examples which demonstrate this. The net result is extra expense and a worse service, and it’s not just down to lost local knowledge. The system itself actually makes the service worse. Have a look at Inspector Simon Guilfoyle’s website for some further explanation. Some people in ACPO and in Whitehall (who are the real drivers of this nonsense) need shooting.

    • Mr NickQ
      I wish to respectfully disagree with you, on one point. The gentleman you mentioned is in my opinion not “part of the solution”, he is in thrall to a particular pernicious piece of flim-flam. Which is a pity as otherwise, from reading his other posts and some of his Twitter stuff , he is a nice chap and a decent officer.

      I am refering to this thing called “System Thinking”, it is just the latest name for a ragbag collection of ideas that are sold as the latest thing in management. People realised that they could make money by telling other people, how to do their job without needing any idea what that job was.

      Its roots are really in the ideas of Colt, Ford and Taylor, but it finally somebody worked how to make a few quid and started selling the ‘Toyoto Production System’ and while this was confined to broadly comparable industries it was fine. A few years went by and those selling this are running out of customers. It changed names some time in the 1990’s and re-emerged as ‘Total Quality Management’, exactly the some thing, a quick brush and a polish, bolt on a few shiny new bits and you are ‘good to go’. This is when it spread like a rash, it was bloody everywhere, most sensible people ignored all the rubbish bits, because they wanted a little bit of paper. They were told unless the got either an ISO9000 or an ISO9001 certificate the world was going to end.

      Now I will confess I did rather take my eye of the ball at this point, you know real world stuff to do like making money, pleasing customers, training staff etc.

      We move now to the early part of the 21st century, and bugger me with a cumquat, it came back as ‘Lean’, well ‘Lean Manufacturing’ to be exact. Now it could just be me but I think there is a really big clue in that title. Anyway they rolled all the old ideas in a bit of glitter and tried to sell it all over again. The people that bought it the first time had mostly retired or been promoted, and so there was a brand new audience, champange all round. Most UK manufacturing was now in decline, due to a lot of reasons which I won’t list, but there are all these people trying to make money selling ‘Lean’ so they start selling it into areas outside manufacturing.

      This is where it goes a bit squiffy, most of the techniques don’t actually work in manufacturing at all, some work in this bit, others work in that bit. But if you try and apply it to situations where you are handling people rather than things it just falls to bits. If you were to try and use the theories in a situation as dynamic as policing it will fail almost immediately.

      Now it has come back as ‘System Thinking’ doubtless shorn of references to any activities that might be seen as a little ‘oily’. And is being sold as the ‘new’ thing again, and aimed at improving processes, and now it’s used as a template to jigger about with things, without fully understanding why they are there in the first place. To save time I would recommend having at look into the idea of ‘Chestertons Gate’.

      This has got a bit long, and I apologise, so I will try to wrap up quickly. Using ‘System Thinking’ I can prove that improving efficiency is wasteful, and that saving money is expensive. Back in the day it was just called thinking and it cost nothing.

      If I might be allowed a post script, can I ask if you had a link to the costed studies you mentioned? I did try searching but came up dry. This is a genuine question, as you probably reasoned it is an area of interest to me.

      Thank you if you got this far.

  8. Excellent example of what is real;ly happening. A prime example of politicians who were butcher/bakers/candlestickmakers before they took up politics and know nothing about the matters they are ‘spouting’ on about!!. As for the higher ranks of the Police Forces (and probably all the other state agencies) regret they are only interested in advancing their own position, by ‘cow towing’ to their political masters.
    How many Birmingham City Police/West Midlands Police Chief Constables have been knighted????
    For what???

  9. I started working for my local force just about 25 years ago, then we had a central control room for the nines but with the exception of two large locations any calls were passed to the local front office (remember them?) who dealt with it directly on thier PR’s. The two larger locations had their own control rooms but didnt take 999 calls so we passed them the emegency calls details via computors, the others by landline for them to go onto paper at their end. It worked because of local knowledge.

    Then we changed to four local control rooms that also took over the PR’s schemes, within a few years these four became two. Local knowledge was lost and still is a concern, even more so when controllers training days became HQ based and days out to local stations were stopped on cost grounds. You could learn a lot from those days.

    Now they are talking about reducing these two rooms into one in a few years time but only if it saves money.

    Local knowledge is vital, OK modern systems help to bridge the gap but as they say with computers, rubbish in equals rubbish out, so you have to ask the right questions if you don’t know. That all takes time.

    To be honest I’m glad I retired early this year. The force has taken to the “customer satisfaction” route and we were told we had to ask the persons name, use that name, give ours, thank them for their call. This was for any call not deemed an emergency and as all controllers know that means this applied to quite a few 999 calls as you can get some rubbish in there. Then they started marking your non emergency call taking. At that point I left and took retirement 5 years early. Gone were the days when you took the basic details, knew where the caller meant, knew what the call was about and could save time by keeping the call brief but to the point, ie location (first in case call cuts out), job and any descriptions, anyother useful information for officers. Now they have that add serials numbers, tell the caller the time scale that they should expect someone to arrive, often missed on low priority calls anyway.

    Glad also I didnt work in the call handling centre. I find it insulting when someone asks what colour I am, how old I am unless relevant to the call and I could never feel at ease asking that kind of question.

  10. Most shocking part of this post to me is that the operator seemed to think Bedford was in Thames Valley land! As an operator you’d hope she/he might have heard of Bedfordshire Police (clue is in the name!)

  11. As an experienced control op of 14yrs (Merpol)…I have seen may changes to our role…none of them good….for control room staff…patrols or mop. We too have been informed by the powers that be that come sept 2013 we shall be one FCC (Force Contact Center)….losing 4 local control rooms..2 call centers and merging with The Fire Service…..Ambo are not willing or have the sense not to come on board !! We all think it is a step too far…for all the reasons all ready stated . Not to mention the 20 mile plus excess travelling to the new FCC. Progress ?
    But on a plus side…it does keep a lot of people working day shifts…planning our future and having a hell of day picking out potted plants and mood lighting !!

  12. Well, I’ve seen it from within TVP, go from 6 control centres to 2 plus enquiry centres. You know that loss of local knowledge you’re so worried about? It really isn’t that big a deal. Sure it happens, but there is always someone who knows the area, so it is rarely a huge problem. Some of the people with the “knowledge” will leave, some retire, but then other new people come along who know their areas well. We’ve got a really good mapping system and between us we manage to get the locations sorted. How often, if you get a call of something “kicking off” as in the example given, do you only get the one call? The world and his wife have mobile phones and they love phoning the police. Well, us anyway.

    Whether you like the idea of centralisation or not – and I can assure you there were plenty in TVP who didn’t… it is coming to you soon! You could end up better off. You will if you show you are ready to embrace change, engage with the process and do what you can to make it serve your needs. Come and visit us if you need to see it in action.

  13. totally agree! I worked in an area control room (which was ‘never as good as town control rooms at the back of the front desk I’m told) and almost all of us on each shift lived somewhere within or just outside of the radius we covered, which was one big town, one small and a few big villages. semi rural. I also worked with them when they centralised from 7 to 4. Now, operators don’t understand the nuances of local streets. There is a real them n us between the 4 rooms, some of which are predominately call taking the others dispatch. As you say, trying to report anything is a bit of a mare, and as my Officer friends tell me, its very hard work being controlled by them,…. in fact they don’t control at all, they just give out jobs. Oh and did I mention that the shift patterns are rubbish and staff are very demotivated and exhuasted because basically there are not enough staff to cover the hours, yet managers say that sickness is down (? suspect that to be untrue or a twist of facts). The rapport that is built by meeting Officers when they pop up for the tape or just to put a face to the voice is lost and people become just numbers, no team work, no working together for the same aim. A sad state of affairs.

    • It is obviously impossible for none resident radio operators/controllers to grasp the exact nature of the area they are covering. Even with the so called sophisticated computer programmes. I have woked for a Police Foce on and off for 30 years and remember this!!!! Just because an idea is ‘new’ does not under any circumstances make it better!! There are too many totally selfish people within the promotion merry go round wanting to leave their mark – and haven’t we just seen the results?Ludicrous
      ‘new broom sweeping clean’ mentality. Trouble is as soon as these people get their stripes or pips they
      also start getting the God complex!!!

  14. Hi there.
    As a radio op with near on 7 years in the job, I can agree to some extent.. My patch where I live is very rural, & I know it like the back of my hand. All the rat runs, short-cuts etc. Very useful.

    My section is lucky in that between us, we have a 90+ % knowledge of the area our radio room covers (the force has 2 radio rooms). However, I have picked up (quite quickly – through need) most of the other areas I cover outside my patch. The mapping system is helpful in making up the minor shortfalls.

    Gotta say though, BIIIIIGG props to all the local officers, who are more than willing to come up on air with location confirmations & directions if needed by / for other units!! Their help is invaluable.

    My main concern is that as Chaos says, comms staff are being called “back room” staff (comms staff are considered front line in my force…. at the moment!!), in what is an obvious attempt to get some muppet private company in on the cheap (how can an emergency service control be run by a private company as a “business interest” for god’s sake?!?!?).

    I fear the PCC’s will only make it worse as they will have limited or no knowledge of policing & try to cut even further (especially if they are from a political party I’d suggest).

    At what point is it enough??

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