Closing call centres not to blame for errors, says Police Scotland

Police Scotland’s failure to properly respond to more than 200 calls for help is not connected to the force’s decision to axe some of its call centres, a senior officer has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer insisted the 202 recorded incidents were down to human error rather than the move to rationalise call handling.

Police Scotland has shut its Aberdeen call centre and is pushing ahead with plans to close its Inverness facility.

Calls regarding emergency incidents in the north of Scotland will be handled by staff in Dundee.

Non emergency calls will be handed handled at centres in Glasgow, Motherwell and Midlothian.

Mr Telfer told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I don’t think the centralisation of call handling or any process we have put in place or any systems that we use to back that up have got anything to do with this.

“I’ve already said this is the human factor. When human beings are dealing with decision making, sometimes the decision making will be wrong and we need to pick up on that and learn from it and move forward.

“I would love to operate in a perfect world, but there’s always going to that human factor and no-one lives in an error-free environment.”

He spoke out after Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson demanded answers from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, saying MSPs had previously been “promised” the reduction in police control rooms would not result in a loss of local knowledge.

The Tory chief said a suicidal caller who rang the police was told to “hang up”, while no officers were dispatched to help a couple who rang 999 when their front door was “being kicked in”.

Other cases she highlighted included “a woman threatened by her ex-partner who didn’t get a response from police because they were sent to the wrong address”, and “a man threatened with a knife where police were sent to the right flat in the right street but in the wrong town”.

Mr Telfer said in such cases it was “not appropriate that we don’t attend”, adding that Police Scotland had “picked up” on 202 such incidents.

He said: “The bottom line is our staff are now confident in declaring mistakes and learning from them.

“Don’t think I’m making any excuses for mistakes being made, one for me is too many. But we need to put this into context. This is over a period where we received in excess of 2.2 million calls, both emergency and non-emergency calls, and the 202 incidents we’re talking about is 0.009% – that’s the human factor there.”

The issue was raised at Holyrood after the independent Police Investigations & Review Commissioner found failings in the way a 999 call from a domestic abuse victim was handled.

Elizabeth Bowe, 50, called for help on September 17 last year but Police Scotland took almost 90 minutes to respond.

Officers found her seriously injured in her St Andrews home, and she later died.

Her brother Gordon Bowe, 52, was jailed for life in July at the High Court in Glasgow after being found guilty of strangling her.

Police Scotland had previously hit the headlines when a couple lay undiscovered by the M9 for three days despite a reported sighting of their wrecked car. John Yuill and Lamara Bell died following the crash in July 2015

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