Police authority chief makes apology

THE chairman of Essex Police Authority has admitted the force made serious errors in a major shake-up of its communications policy.And Robert Chambers said that anyone having difficulty contacting officers should call him directly on his home or mobile phone.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE chairman of Essex Police Authority has admitted the force made serious errors in a major shake-up of its communications policy.

And Robert Chambers said that anyone having difficulty contacting officers should call him directly on his home or mobile phone.

Mr Chambers said that the £1.5 million revamp of the police's telephone answering system had resulted in problems for members of the public.


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The centralised call-handling centre in Chelmsford, which answers calls from across the county, had not been a success and needed a rethink, he said.

"I have put my hands up," he told the EADT yesterday. "We changed the system two or three years ago and we didn't get it right.

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"We had been unhappy with the 999 system we had, and we tried to put it right. It has not been a success.

"We are looking now at a totally new system which will serve the public properly."

But he added that he did not believe the exercise had been a complete waste of money.

"We spent money on trying to update our system and I will readily admit it doesn't work.

"However, you have to try things or else you never get them right. I think it is silly to make excuses for trying to do something and sometimes not succeeding."

He also stressed his criticisms were specific and did not relate to the entire force.

"Essex Police is a very good force and I won't have anyone say it's not excellent.

"I am quite prepared to listen to people. If there is one person I can help then I have made it worthwhile."

He said people should call 999 if they could not get through to police on a non-emergency line or if they did not get a polite response.

If they were still not happy they should call him at home on 01763 838754 or on his mobile on 07889 286041 and he would try to get through for them, he added.

Last night, an Essex Police spokeswoman said: "Essex Police is committed to answering all calls made to us as swiftly and effectively as possible.

"Last year we dealt with 250,000 emergency '999' calls, an increase of 25,000 calls on the previous year and more than 1.5 million non-emergency calls.

"We answered more than 88% of 999 calls within 15 seconds.

"A major project is underway to ensure we improve our service to the public.

"We hope to be able to announce detailed proposals later this year.

"In the meantime, the public can be reassured that we are making every effort to deliver the most effective service possible.

"The 999 system is for emergencies only and we would ask the public not to use this number unless it is a genuine emergency."

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