‘Our workload seemed to treble overnight’ - a day in the life of a police call handler during Covid-19

A day in the life of a police call handler during Covid-19 with Carmen McCann. Picture: CAMBS POLICE

A day in the life of a police call handler during Covid-19 with Carmen McCann. Picture: CAMBS POLICE - Credit: Archant

A police call handler based in Huntingdon has shared the difficult realities of working on the frontline during a global pandemic.

Carmen McCann, has been in the job for just over three years, and responsibilities include taking non-emergency calls as the first point of contact for the public.

She also writes up crime reports that come through the online reporting channel and partner agencies.

“It’s an incredibly rewarding but challenging job and never have my team and I felt this more than earlier this year when the country locked down amid the Coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

“In all honesty, stressful doesn’t quite cover how we felt in the weeks following March 23 when the government officially announced the UK had gone into lockdown.

“Our workload seemed to treble overnight. Add to this staff sickness, staff working from home and many facing childcare issues as the schools closed and we had quite a task on our hands.

“We suddenly found ourselves with far fewer staff to deal with the calls and reports that kept flooding in.”

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Carmen says she was faced with a “metaphorical avalanche of people” that required responses from them, but they too were trying to navigate the everchanging policies.

“It was a huge responsibility to sift through and differentiate the genuine calls and breaches from the malicious ongoing neighbour disputes,” she said.

“I felt the full force of responsibility having to make the call as to which jobs needed officers to attend and which didn’t.

“Regular crime was still happening and we needed to ensure we had enough staff to attend emergencies and incidents where there was an immediate threat to life.”

There was also the misconception that the police were now only dealing with Covid breaches – leading to a vicious cycle of frustration from the public.

Carmen continued: “Of course, there were some pockets of quieter time. Some crime levels did drop as businesses closed and more people stayed indoors.

“I’d go as far as to say it was eerily quiet at times, which put call handlers on edge as we wondered when the next barrage of calls would come in.

“And while it was rather pleasant to see a pause on the usual Friday and Saturday night calls to attend to people who’d had one too many beers, these calls were quickly replaced with Covid breaches, so quiet times never lasted long.”

The team were busy but couldn’t work from home like others, so Carmen said morale could get low at times.

“We just had to keep going and keep our spirits up as best we could. It helps that we’re really close, and when you work in this kind of environment you become like a family.

“Our main focus was to do our best to support the public, even when they were abusive towards us, we understood that everyone was feeling worried and anxious.

“I feel so thankful for the team I have around me. Without each other I don’t know how we’d have got through the last six months or how we’d be able to face the next six.”

Carmen added: “Every single one of my colleagues came together and supported each other day-in, day-out as we always have. We’re all very much part of one big ship and we work together to steer it to safety.

“Thankfully we all know each other really well so we can immediately tell if someone is low. We all offer each other a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear when needed.

“We’re planning a team meal once this is over to celebrate getting through the worst of lockdown and look forward to the future.

“There’s a feeling that if we can get through this, we can get through anything and we’re certainly stronger together.”