Minister and Commissioner need to face up to their responsibilities

Police Minister George Hawkins and Commissioner Rob Robinson have to face up to their responsibility to drastically improve the 111 system, Green MP Keith Locke says.

“It is unacceptable for the Police Commissioner to attack the review team as ‘provocative’, as he did on radio today,” says Mr Locke, the Green’s Police Spokesperson.

“A key problem seems to be that call centre staff, who deal with extremely high-stress situations on a daily basis, are treated like dirt, strapped for resources and offered little training and guidance.”

The call centre staff begin on a low wage and often work nine-and-a-half-hour shifts, with only three short breaks. They are under additional stress through the staff shortages identified by the review team. It’s no wonder they have a shocking 17% staff turnover, he says.

“Staff would be happier to stay if they were multiskilled and on a higher wage rate, as the review team suggests. To have call answering staff also trained as dispatchers makes for a much more efficient operation. The most successful taxi companies have communications centres where staff combine call answering and dispatch skills.”

“The police should also look at decentralising call centres. If there were centres in the 12 police districts the specialist call takers/dispatchers would have the local knowledge to avoid horror stories of distressed people having to explain local geography to those answering calls hundreds of kilometres away.

“We need a revamp of the whole 111 system. It has been a managerial debacle which is completely unacceptable when so many New Zealander’s lives are at stake.”