The misconduct hearing follows an investigation by Metropolitan Police Service DPS, managed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the actions of a 58 year-old PC based at Bow Central Command Centre handling 999 calls from the public.
The investigation began in August 2009 after issues relating to the PC’s performance first came to light when a woman dialed 999 to report a domestic assault on the 26 July. On experiencing difficulties with the police officer through several attempts to get across the correct spelling of her surname, she ended the call in frustration. The officer involved closed the call log and failed to provide a police response.
The woman caller later brought her experience to the attention of a family friend who happened to be a call handler working at Bow Command Centre. A supervisor was informed, the call identified and reviewed and the police officer removed from answering 999 calls pending a detailed analysis of his previous performance.
The investigation that followed reviewed all of the calls dealt with by that officer including a follow-up on any calls which may have been mishandled to ensure that no-one had been put at risk.
It found that between 1 May 2009 and 26 July 2009 the police officer received approximately three thousand emergency calls. Of these, 141 were found to have significant performance issues, with 19 considered to amount to gross misconduct. These ranged from the police officer failing to provide a police response to domestic abuse and assaults, rape, a suicide threat, potential armed break-ins and a road traffic collision.
The panel was also informed that on logging details of seven of these calls, the police officer altered the last digit of the caller’s telephone number by one digit. In his interview statement, the PC explained that he had done this to avoid conflict with his supervisors.
The investigation period spanned the time which the PC was handling 999 calls from the public – up until the reported call handling incident, when the PC was placed on restricted duties. The review team looked into each of the 19 call logs to assess what action should have been taken by the police officer and what further assistance, if any, was required to help the callers.
It was discovered that in 9 cases, the callers had immediately called back or attended a police station, where an appropriate police response was provided by other officers. In 6 cases, the review team provided further assistance once they had made contact with the caller, either by arranging a police visit or for assistance from other relevant public services such as social services. In four cases the review team could not establish contact with the caller because the telephone number was no longer in use or because the caller did not contact the review team after they left a message.
The investigation was concluded in June 2010 and submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service who found insufficient evidence to bring criminal proceedings.
IPCC Commissioner for London Deborah Glass said:
“When the public call 999 for help from the police, they should receive an immediate, professional and sympathetic response. This officer not only did not provide that response, in some cases he deliberately obstructed their attempts to get help, and left some callers in continued danger. It is a matter of luck – and the persistence of those seeking help - that his actions do not appear to have resulted in serious harm to a member of the public.
“It beggars belief that a police officer whose job was to help people in distress should have behaved in such an appalling and callous way. He has rightly been dismissed. It is however encouraging that other officers responded appropriately to the callers who received such a poor service from this officer.
“Public confidence in how the police deal with emergency calls is vitally important. I am pleased that the Metropolitan Police have, following this case, set up a unit to identify staff performance issues before a problem becomes established.”
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