The selection process for becoming a police call handler is extremely tough. Call handling for the police is not something that just anyone can do. It takes a special type of person, and for this reason, candidates must undergo a rigorous assessment process. In this blog, we’ll explain to you all about the role of a police call handler, and how to get a job working as one.
What is a Police call handler?
When most people think of the police, they imagine men in blue uniforms, patrolling the streets or areas such as train stations. However, there is much more to police work than working on the front line. There are many more opportunities open to potential candidates considering a career in the police force, including: administrative roles, finance, human resources, call handling positions, data analysts and even librarians. The role of a call handler is pretty tough. You must be the type of person who relishes a challenge, and is willing to work hard and adapt to the requirements of the role.
So, what does a call handler do? In a nutshell, a police call handler is responsible for dealing with emergency and high priority calls for police assistance. It is estimated that around 80,000 emergency calls are made within the UK every single day. The role of a call handler is a wide and varied position, comprising early, late and night shifts. It is a twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week role, throughout the year.
Call Handlers are required to handle large volumes of telephone calls, obtain and record accurate information, assess the situation and level of police response required and initiate the appropriate police action as rapidly as possible.
Often they may be required to handle several emergency situations simultaneously, all of it taking place within the confines of an intensely pressured environment. Every time you respond to a telephone call, it’s impossible to predict what type of call you will be responding to.
A police call handler is the lynchpin in communication between the police force and the general public. It is a highly demanding, highly stressful position yet can also be extremely rewarding. You will deal with calls from the tedious to the deadly serious on a daily basis. It is certainly not your standard nine to five job, nor is it for the fainthearted. From people being mugged to someone complaining about their neighbour’s dog, no two days will ever be the same.
To put the significance of the role within context, the Metropolitan Police Force alone covers an area of 620 square miles and a population of 7.2 million. On a typical day, call handlers working for the Metropolitan Police can be expected to handle around 6,000 emergency calls alone. The number of non-emergency calls can also reach 15,000 every day. That is every day of the year!
That’s not the end of the story of course. The level of emergency calls increases dramatically during summer and can reach peaks of around 10,000 calls every day. Equally, Thames Valley Police receives 6,500 emergency (999) calls and 21,000 non-emergency calls (101) every week. If we haven’t completely deterred you, then read on!
One thing you can be sure of with this position, however, is the ability to give something back to your local community. As a call handler you have the opportunity to make a significant contribution towards improving the safety of the local community. You will be helping to make the world a safer place for your family, friends, neighbours and your local community in this vital role.
Perhaps you know colleagues or friends who have been burgled or mugged? Perhaps you have even been the victim of a burglary or violence yourself. If you called the emergency services you would no doubt have been put through to a 999 call handler. Do you remember how they responded to your distress? Were they helpful, patient and reassuring? That could be you! If you are seeking a worthwhile role that contributes positively to your local community and society as a whole, then this certainly fits the bill.
The Police Call Handler Assessment Process
An Assessment Centre is a frequently used recruitment technique which will assess your suitability for a police call handler’s role through a variety of different exercises.
Assessment Centres are frequently used by public sector employers and often in graduate recruitment or for roles that require a high level of team work and interaction with others. The call handler’s role falls into all three of these categories.
For those of you who have not attended an assessment centre before, the following information will enable you to understand what will be expected of you on the day. If you have attended Assessment Centres for previous vacancies during your career, please do not disregard this vital section or become complacent.
Testing at the Assessment Centre
Police recruitment tests carried out at Assessment Centres are often referred to as PIRT – Police Initial Recruitment Tests – or sometimes as PIR. Assessment Centres incorporate a number of tests and will vary depending on each police force.
Each Assessment Centre should, however, include the following:
- Informal time to give you the opportunity to introduce yourself to other candidates being tested on the day. You may have the opportunity to meet with other members of the police force but this may not be the case. Public sector and police force assessments vary significantly from those run by private companies and are often much more formal.
- Briefing sessions – You should be given an introduction to inform you what the day is about, together with the opportunity to ask any relevant questions.
- A series of tests which we have provided more information on below. These tests are intended to assess you against a variety of competencies, all of which are relevant for the position. Candidates will normally be divided into groups and rotated around the various tests.
Assessments for the role will vary with each police force but will usually take up to half a day and comprise a number of different tests. These may include group exercises, role play, numeracy and literacy tests through to the interview itself.
We have detailed the most common tests and the skills they assess below:
- Literacy Tests – to test basic grammar and word interpretation etc.
- Numeracy Tests – this will include some mental arithmetic
- Typing Tests – which will assess both speed and accuracy
- Software tests – to assess your ability with Windows based applications.
- Geography Tests – to assess your knowledge of the local area that you will be dealing with.
- Recorded Calls – which will test your ability to quickly extract information ranging from addresses, names of callers, etc. These will assess your listening ability coupled with your attention to detail and typing speeds.
- Group Exercises – assessing how you respond to working within a team.
- Role Play – there may be more than one assessment of role play. This will probably take the form of a caller reporting a crime such as a witnessing of a burglary or mugging. Here you will be required to note the critical information, such as, the number of offenders, their description, what car they were driving and the time of the offence. The role play aspect is particularly important as you will also need to demonstrate your ability to gain control of a distressed caller.
Below we’ve listed some top tips for passing some of these assessments! For more tips, make sure you check out our fantastic guide!
Literacy and Numeracy Tests
You can prepare for numeracy and literacy tests fairly easily through improving your ability to recognise word patterns and number patterns.
You may wish to try some of the following prior to the Assessment Centre day:
- Attempt a few word or number puzzles such as Sudoku. It is ideal for those wanting to improve their ability to rapidly identify patterns in numbers.
- If you ever needed a reason to spend a lazy weekend morning with the cryptic crossword then here is your opportunity. Similarly, games like Trivial Pursuit and
Hangman will also help you in improving your mental ability.
- Mental arithmetic is often difficult for those of us who habitually use calculators. One easy way of making a start on improving your mental agility with numbers is to add up the cost of the items in your trolley the next time you visit your local supermarket.
- Go back to basics. When it comes to Maths, the numerical tests carried out for the police call handler’s role will be no higher than basic GCSE standard but if you haven’t studied for a while consider revising some of those basics. You may find that practicing mental Maths and carrying out a selection of exercises in a literacy workbook will help you to clear out those mental cobwebs.
- Check your spelling and your grammar to ensure it’s up to scratch. You’ll find numerous websites that will provide you with details of words that are often spelt wrongly. Misplaced apostrophes are another issue; learn to differentiate between the correct use of ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ if you can’t already.
- As you read newspapers and magazines in the week prior to the Assessment Centre, try and avoid simply scanning through and picking out the parts you want
to read. Consider the meaning of words as you read through the articles. Literacy tests are again fairly basic but the more prepared you are, the less anxious you
will be on the Assessment Day.
Role play exercises are daunting experiences, particularly when carried out under close observation. They may be used in group exercise situations but more often than not are also carried out with an observer present who will assess your response to the scenario.
The role play exercises will often depict a real life situation. While you will be given comprehensive information on the role you will play, you will not have much time to prepare and it may often be a case of walking through a door into a room and being presented with your ‘character’.
Call handler tests
Call handlers have to deal with a wide range of callers, some of whom may be frightened, angry and distressed. If your application is successful, you’ll be asked
to attend one of our assessment day tests where they will assess your ability to handle these types of calls and obtain the information our police officers need.
The test that forms part of the assessment day is broken up into two parts, as follows:
Test 1: Audio typing
For this test you will listen to a recorded 999 call and type up as much of the information you hear as possible. To pass the live test you will need to achieve an average typing speed of around 30 words per minute. You don’t need to type word
for word but you must cover all the relevant and important information and everything you type must make sense – this includes correct use of spelling and grammar.
Test 2: Call handling role play
The next test on your assessment day is a role-play to determine how well you deal with a live-call situation. You will field calls from assessment centre staff and be marked on how well you manage the call. This will include:
- Calming the caller if they are distressed
- Questioning the caller about the incident to obtain and record important information
- Ensuring you obtain and note the caller’s name, address and phone number
These assessments are only designed to test if you have the potential to be a call handler. This is a highly skilled role and, if you’re successful, you’ll be given all the training you need to begin this challenging and rewarding career.
Four Tips For Handling Police Call Handler Role Play
To reduce anxiety about role play the following tips may help:
- Focus on the scenario – What would you do if you were a Store Manager trying to calm down a distressed parent, for example? How would you deal with the parent by taking rapid steps to find the lost child?
- Be prepared to be ‘dropped in at the deep end’ – You may quite literally walk into a room and have the role thrust upon you with only a few minutes to prepare.
- Be yourself – Respond as you would in any stressful situation. You will be constantly dealing with distressed members of the public in your new role so try and imagine you have actually been appointed to the job of a police call handler during your role play, particularly during the telephone tests.
- Try and relax – Role play can give you more of an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the position than other types of assessment such as competency interviews and psychometric tests. Make the most of it. Remember that every other candidate will be equally as nervous as you. Preparation is the key, the more you have prepared and the more confident you feel, the more you will be able to be yourself.
During the call handler assessment interview you will get asked a series of questions that will assess your suitability for the post. It is important to note that you MUST provide EVIDENCE of where you meet the assessable competencies that form part of the job description. This can be achieved by responding to the interview questions using the STAR method.
Now let’s take a look at a sample interview question and response. You’ll find much more of these in our fantastic guide!
Q. Tell us why you want to become a police call handler?
“I have worked in my current role now for a number of years. I have an excellent employer and enjoy working for them but unfortunately no longer find my job challenging. I understand that the role of a police call handler is both demanding and rewarding and I believe I have the qualities to thrive in such an environment. I love working under pressure, working as part of a team that is diverse in nature and helping people in difficult situations. The public expectations of the police are very high and I believe I have the right qualities to help the police deliver the right service to the community by becoming a highly competent call handler
I have studied the qualities and competencies required for the role and believe that I have the skills to match them and deliver what they require.”
- Don’t be negative about your current or previous employer.
- Be positive, enthusiastic and upbeat in your response.
- Make reference to the qualities and competencies if possible.