Hampshire police control room use pen and paper as part of £39m 999 system collapses

POLICE control room staff were forced to use pen and paper when part of a £39m new 999 system collapsed.

Monday, 20th July 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 20th July 2020, 1:03 pm

Officers handling emergency calls in Hampshire were recording details by hand when the command control part of the Microsoft-built Contact Management Platform went down last Wednesday.

Controllers responsible for dispatching officers to incidents were hit with lags before an outage on the day Thames Valley Police started using the system – with Hampshire for several hours ‘using paper on two consecutive days,’ a source told The News.

Thames Valley had to switch back to its old command control system, allowing Hampshire controllers to start using CMP again.

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File photo of a control room elsewhere in England. Picture Scott Merrylees

Police said no-one was put at risk, and that e-mail and radio communications continued between control rooms and officers on the ground.

Analysts are still investigating the root cause of last week’s problem in the delayed and over-budget platform, which was commissioned by Hampshire and Thames Valley in a joint project.

‘It’s pretty awful – it’s got to the point of it being absolutely dangerous now,’ the source said.

‘Thames Valley went live and now the whole system is going even slower since they came online.’

Speaking to The News, Hampshire crime commissioner Michael Lane said: ‘There was an outage last week which is always disappointing.’

But he added: ‘Our control room is up and running with the CMP as I speak, it’s operationally effective.

‘There are no concerns about our ability to support the public.’

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It comes after this newspaper last month revealed ‘rare’ occasions 999 calls were being lost for hours between call handlers and control room staff.

The ‘cutting-edge’ CMP project replaced 20 computer systems. This includes data recording and allowing victims to contact police online.

The outage last Wednesday related to the command control part of the system.

As reported, CMP was in full use in Hampshire by February this year. Early plans said it was due to be in place in 2017. Its budget was previously £27m.

Mr Lane told councillors at a recent meeting its scope had been ‘extended’ since it was first drawn up in 2014/15.

Another £400,000 is being spent by Hampshire and Thames Valley on top of the £39m in improving an app for CMP.

‘Hard journey – but still scope for improvement’

Mr Lane, who holds chief constable Olivia Pinkney to account and has signed off extra spending on CMP, said it had been a ‘hard journey’.

But he said: ‘The people in the control room are favourably impressed by what they’re seeing there and delighted in some cases with it.

‘There’s still room for further improvement – I would not be able to say that I’m not still ambitious for further improvement.’

He added: ‘(CMP) is protecting people and it’s working better than what we had before.’

Police have repeatedly said public safety was not compromised by previously reported glitches.

A constabulary spokesman confirmed the outage in Hampshire when Thames Valley started using the system and said: ‘During this same period Hampshire Constabulary also experienced slower than expected performance, and system outage, and our tried and tested contingencies then kicked in.

‘The root cause of this issue is being investigated.

‘Staff in our contact centre and force control room are well versed in making critical, risk based, operational decisions every day which help keep the public, officers and staff safe.

‘This was at the forefront of their actions during this period and at no stage was public or officer safety compromised.’

The force said no-one has raised concerns lives are at risk. The spokesman added a ‘full command structure has been in place throughout’ to monitor CMP and identify any problems and take action, which kicked in last Wednesday.

The spokesman added: 'Any new IT system – especially one of this complexity – presents implementation challenges. Knowing this to be the case, a full command structure has been in place throughout, with more frequent touchpoints at key stages and all the go live support, technical and business expertise available in order for us to monitor, identify and respond to issues quickly.’

Contact Management Platform handles 134,000 reports

Between April and May this year, the Contact Management Platform was used to handle 134,000 reports from the public.

Data shown at a public meeting shows 65,000 101 calls were received, and 38,000 999 calls.

Around 30,000 reports were made online – with 53 per cent of those being related to Covid-19.

Using CMP, around 1,400 incidents were sent to local authorities and social services to handle.

The average time to answer a 999 call was eight seconds.

This is an improvement of one second on 999 calls in the same period in 2019.

People calling 101 in the same period last year were waiting seven minutes 53 seconds. This has dropped dramatically to two minutes and four seconds for 101 calls.

Around 42 per cent of 101 calls were abandoned in the two months last year, while this has dropped to 16 per cent.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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