Meet the man with your lives in his hands

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Meet the man with your lives in his hands

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Message from Humberside Police:-

Every day we receive approximately 1,500 calls from people asking for our help.

From people ringing to report that something has been stolen or they’ve had a bump in the car, to terrified victims of domestic abuse calling because they’re fearing for their lives – you never know what the next call could bring.

Making sure that we send our teams to those who are most in need of our help is the Force Incident Manager (FIM).

For 12 hours at a time these dedicated men and women have the lives of the public and our own officers and staff in their hands.

The decisions they make have the potential to affect the rest of people’s lives – but Inspector Ian Miller says it’s a job he wouldn’t change for the world.

We caught up with him to find out more about the high pressure role of a FIM.

We arrived at the Force Control Room in Hessle Road to find Insp Miller in full flow.

There had been a serious accident on the A180 and he was in charge of co-ordinating the emergency services racing to the scene.

As well as putting measures in place to get those involved the medical attention and help they needed and ensure there were no further casualties, he was also responsible for a raft of other decisions.

These included:

Keeping emergency services personnel safe.

Ensuring anyone who witnessed the incident was okay, as well as starting to gather evidence about the circumstances of the collision.

Keeping traffic moving and putting diversions in place, with rush hour fast approaching.

That’s to name but a few – and all the while more emergency calls are coming in, any one of which could be a life or death situation.

Insp Miller said: “This is a job like no other. You literally have people’s lives in your hands.

“It can be pressured but I love it. It’s so fast paced and you never know what you’re going to be dealing with next.

“It’s a balancing act because of the number of incidents I can be involved with at the same time.

“The decision making can be quite intense, with really challenging circumstances but we have to make decisions based on the information we have and do it quickly.”

Insp Miller, who’s been with Humberside Police for more than 27 years has been working as a FIM for the past six and a half years.

Before that he was a detective inspector in our Protecting Vulnerable People team dealing with complex criminal cases such as child abuse and exploitation.

He said: “Making decisions quickly becomes second nature but for the first year it was hard.

“Working in my previous role I was used to making decisions in complex investigations but this is very different.

“In a criminal investigation you have time to review the evidence and consider lines of enquiry. Here that decision making has to be very rapid because an immediate response is required. It can be quite nerve racking.”

How we prioritise

To help them, the FIMs use a national template known as the National Decision Making model – but to put it simply, our priority is always the person most at risk of harm.

Insp Miller said: “We put risk to life above everything else and use this to help us prioritise where we deploy our teams.

“For example, if someone in Scunthorpe calls to say there has been a break in but no one is at risk of being hurt and we’re also getting calls about an elderly lady with dementia who has gone missing in the same area, we will always prioritise trying to find her safe and well.

“I know it can be frustrating for people that we can’t always get to them as quickly as they may like us to when something’s happened to them or their property, but it’s never that we don’t care or can’t be bothered.

“When we’re deciding where to send our officers it’s always done on the basis of who’s at the greatest risk of harm and in need of our help and protection. 

“It’s about considering what the risk is to the public, the suspect and our officers and providing the most appropriate and proportionate response.

“For the majority of incidents we can send routine patrol officers. They have all undergone officer safety training and are equipped with stab vests, a baton and pepper spray.

“However, if we know that the suspect has a weapon, or is known to be violent or hostile, we might consider sending officers who have tasers, shields or long batons or, at the upper end of the scale, we would could send armed officers.

“Again, it’s all about ensuring that we minimise the risk to everyone involved, including people living and working nearby.”

Competing demands

Over the years the issues reported to us have changed. In the past, around 70 % of what we dealt with was around what people would have traditionally thought of as police business such as break ins or violence.

Now at least 70% of the calls we receive are about concerns for people’s safety.

Insp Miller “The vast majority of our high priority calls are around concerns for someone’s safety – whether that’s because they have gone missing or because of mental health issues that could lead them to harm themselves or others.

“This is our biggest area of demand and because of the potential for someone to be seriously hurt, we deploy to them in the vast majority of cases.

“We also get a lot of calls where people have a genuine concern about something but don’t know who they need to speak to.

“We’ll always do our best to help them – whether that’s dealing with policing matters ourselves or directing the caller to colleagues in other services if they’re better placed to assist them.”

And it’s not just operational decisions that the FIM is in charge of dealing with – they’re also responsible for making sure we have the right people in place to answer your calls.

Insp Miller added: “The supervisors and I keep an eye on the incoming calls to make sure that we’re here when you need us.

“Our priority will always be staffing our 999 lines, for obvious reasons, so if we are receiving a large number of emergency calls this means that we may have to divert people away from answering 101.

“However, we do our best to minimise the impact this has on waiting times and between May and August this year – which is our busiest period – we managed to answer almost 90% of calls to 101 in less than 30 seconds.

“What matters to us is that we’re here for people when they need us the most and there’s no better feeling than knowing we’re making a difference.”

#ThereWhenYouNeedUs

Do you have questions about life in our Force Control Room?

Has there ever been a situation when you didn’t know whether to call 999 or 101 – or even if you needed to call the police or someone else?

You can pose these questions – and lots more besides to Insp Miller in a live online chat between 12.30pm and 1.30pm on Thursday, October 3.

To get involved, visit www.slido.com and join the debate using this code: #S437.

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