IT IS reasonable for people who come into contact with the public, whether personally or by telephone, to be free from verbal or physical abuse.
However, some jobs need people who are calm, and resist the inclination to accuse callers whose voice rises in pitch, as opposed to volume, of shouting at them.
Some months back I saw some people in a box van attempting to steal my neighbour's motorcycle from the street outside his house, in the small hours of the morning. As the crime was still taking place I immediately rang 999, then handed the phone to my wife to listen for an answer, while I subjected the thieves to a verbal tirade in the hope it would put them off. When the phone was answered my wife said she was passing the phone to me. When I started to explain the nature of the crime I got an impatient 'yes, yes, your wife has told us all about it'. This was not so.
She had only said she was passing the phone to me. When I said I was trying to report a crime still taking place I was told if I persisted the telephonist would hang up on me.
I continued trying to explain the crime, and the operator duly hung up. I re-dialled, made sure it was not the same operator, and reported the crime.
When the police arrived,I had succeeded in disrupting the thieves to the extent they dropped the bike and made off without it. I explained what had happened, then mentioned the first 999 call. The policemen rolled his eyes and said ,'civilians'. This was the first time I realised that the 999 service was staffed by civilians. I later found that my neighbour who owned the bike had also seen the theft taking place, and got dressed to go down and 'sort it', leaving his wife to make the 999 call. This accounts for the confusion and there was no way I could have known about it at the time of the occurrence.
Needless to say the police did a fine job of attending to the recording of the details and immediately alerting all mobile units.
Amusingly, I had put the thieves into such a flap they had knocked off the unclosed van rear door against a lamp post as they sped round the corner, so the police were able to carry off this trophy to 'forensics'.
I am afraid the 999 service requires people other than touchy sensitive people to operate it. It is the crime victim who is under stress, not the phone operator, and it is for the service to remain calm and supportive, otherwise they are in the wrong job and can only hinder the service. Perhaps other readers may have had similar experiences which might make interesting reading.
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