With 10 years under his belt, Supervisor Calum Dunn shares his journey of working in the Force Control Room. Starting as a call taker, Calum worked his way to a controller, also becoming a Special Constable in the process before becoming a supervisor.
This is his story.
“I have been working in the Force Control Room for 10 years now. I started working as a call taker for eight months before moving on to become a controller and stayed in that role for nearly four years. I became a supervisor five years ago and working here is still as exciting as when I first joined.
I wanted to be a police officer then and thought working in the FCR could give me a background in policing. I did work as a Special Constable for about four years and saw both sides, but in the end, I never became a cop. I preferred working in the control room.
As a supervisor, I’m responsible for managing everyone’s welfare. I make sure all the staff have everything they need to do the job and review incidents to make sure we did everything right. Supervisors are also Airwave Tactical Advisors, which essentially means we make sure everyone is in the right place and different agencies are talking to each other when needed.
Like everybody else, I started as a call taker. I remember there being a steep learning curve and there’s a lot thrown at you in the beginning. Knowing what is and isn’t an offence is a huge part of it. You have to be prepared to deal with any incident at any given time and others might not understand this, but there’s a lot more to it than just taking a call.
The person at the other end of the line doesn’t know if you’re new to the job and it’s a big responsibility to represent the force. People also don’t know if you’ve dealt with a difficult call before taking theirs and you have to be able to adapt to different scenarios. People deserve the best service we can give them so it’s important to not let previous calls impact the next ones – easier said than done!
You have to keep people safe without actually being there. You have to try to keep people calm and composed to manage their needs, but you also have to think about police operational needs like securing evidence, that kind of thing.
It’s a challenging role but the fact that we have to be ready for anything makes it an exciting one too.
I think people working here also find it difficult to get their head around the fact that you can only do so much to help. It’s really hard to quantify the difference we’ve made, and I know some people struggle with this. Everyone in here just wants to help in the best way that they can but we can’t help in every situation.
You really do have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in this job, but you have a good support network around you in the FCR. We help each other process incidents, give each other emotional and peer support and everyone generally looks out for each other.
There is a real team spirit here and everyone is like your family to a degree.
You will never stop learning on this job and that’s one of the best things about it. I also really enjoy the operational side of things, following a call from the point of the call taker all the way through to when it is recorded on our system.
I don’t mind the shift pattern. In fact, I prefer it and have been doing it for the last decade. I can be around for my daughters for school and because I know my shift pattern in advance, planning things is easier. There are times you will miss out on stuff, and matching schedules with people who don’t work shifts is tricky, but it’s a small sacrifice to pay knowing I only work half the year.
If you’re thinking of applying or are still unsure during the training stages, stick with it. It takes around four to five months to feel somewhat comfortable and used to the job, but you’re never on your own. There is always someone working here, always someone to turn to who may have more experience than you or someone who might have had a similar call to advise you.”