Written by Erskin Quint
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Topics: Police, Crime, Emergency

Saturday, 27 February 2010

image for Fury At Private 999 Call Centre
Calcutta Yesterday

A Police force is under attack over a pilot scheme in which it employed a private call centre to handle emergency 999 calls.

Muntingtonshire Police was the first force to trial the cost-cutting scheme.

Union chiefs are aghast at the results of the trial, but Chief Constable Bobby Constable, 45, said "we should be flexible in seeking ways to get the most from public funds and respond to Government demands for reduced spending".

Anne Agitator, 34, Muntingtonshire's Unison rep for police staff, was yesterday incensed, as she quoted some of the findings of the pilot study.

"Callers rang 999, only to be put through to a call centre in Calcutta", she raged. "There they had to speak to Indian operatives who said their names were Hank or Dorothy and who proceeded to spend half an hour trying to sell the callers a mobile phone and broadband connection. It was only after agreeing to sign up to a joint line rental and broadband deal that they were allowed to report any issues.

"It is ridiculous. One man rang up because he was being murdered, and his widow later received the bill for the mobile phone he had had to buy before he could proceed. To add insult to (fatal) injury, his name on the bill was spelled 'Aaarrrgh'.

"The world of information technology is always changing and we must operate in a rapidly-evolving commercial environment. Linking with private sector IT providers may be the way ahead", Chief Constable Constable, 48, countered.

The Chief Constable refused to comment on Unison claims that Muntingtonshire's police officers will soon be wearing caps and helmets festooned with advertising for the mobile phone and broadband suppliers for whom the Calcutta call centre operatives are agents.

George Dixon

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