Police recording incidents on paper after IT glitch

The IT glitch followed another incident at the Bilston Glen Control Room. Picture: Julie Bull
The IT glitch followed another incident at the Bilston Glen Control Room. Picture: Julie Bull
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Police Scotland staff were left to record incidents on pieces of paper after the latest IT glitch at one of the force’s control rooms.

Staff at the service centre in Dundee said a problem yesterday afternoon meant operators were unable to enter calls into the police system for a number of hours.

On the back of Bilston Glen going down, it’s scary what’s going on. We just don’t have enough staff

Dundee control room staff member

Police Scotland said all 999 and 101 calls were still getting through, but staff described the situation as “scary”.

This latest episode follows a “technical difficulty” at the Bilston Glen control room in Midlothian on Tuesday which led to calls being diverted to elsewhere in the country.

Addressing the issue at a Scottish Police Authority meeting yesterday, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said the fault happened when “a bit of kit went wrong”.

Last month, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland identified a number of failings in the running of the Midlothian control room.

The report followed the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell, who died following a crash on the M9 in July. Police failed to find their vehicle until three days after the crash because a call to Bilston Glen was not properly logged.

Yesterday, a member of staff at the Dundee control room said the main command and control system had “crashed” and was down for most of the afternoon. She said: “Staff are having to keep track of incidents by doing it all longhand, writing everything down rather than logging it on computer.

“The current command and control system is due to be phased out in around a month and we going over to the system used in the rest of the UK.

“They’re still taking the calls, but remember the scenario on the M9 that led to two people dying? It’s pieces of paper being passed about. There’s no fall-back system.”

She said staff taking 101 calls were in a separate room from those dispatching the calls.

“If somebody answers a 101 call, they’re having to write it all down and then leave the room to run through to the control room with a piece of paper before going back to take the next call,” she said.

“On the back of Bilston Glen going down, it’s scary what’s going on. We just don’t have enough staff, regardless of what anybody says.”

Speaking during the incident, Superintendent Roddy Newbigging said: “We would like to reassure the public that all 999 and 101 systems across are running smoothly.

“There is an issue with an internal system within the control room and we are working to rectify the issue as quickly as possible. Officers are being tasked and deployed as normal and no other areas or systems are impacted.”

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie MSP said: “This is the second time in two days where frontline services at a police call centre have failed.

“On Tuesday, the police claimed the outage at Bilston Glen did not affect emergency calls before later admitting that this was not the case. Now we learn that staff in Dundee have been forced to use pens and paper to record calls, just as they did before the tragic M9 crash earlier this year.

“We need an urgent statement from Police Scotland as to how they will ensure that these life-saving services are properly resilient.”