Police Commissioner Rob Robinson has announced the establishment of a National Communications Centre Advisory Board to oversee the performance and strategic direction of police communications centres.
The announcement follows the release of the Independent Review of Police Communications Centres which the Commissioner initiated in response to several high profile service failures.
Establishing the board, to be chaired by businessman and public sector specialist John Perham, is one response to more than 60 recommendations for change made by an independent review panel.
Mr Robinson says the review provides an excellent basis for police to move forward and to improve delivery of service to the public.
"I asked for an objective assessment of the communication centres and we now have one. It helps us understand the scope and nature of the inherent difficulties the centres have been experiencing.
"I am aware of the pressures on centre staff and on some of our systems and we now have options to relieve those pressures. I have already had discussions with Government seeking their assistance with this."
Mr Robinson says he is pleased the reviewers acknowledged the commitment of communications centre staff and their dedication to improving performance. However the panel advised that the management structures in the decade old centres are no longer working and changes are required.
"They have also acknowledged that the communications centre technology used by NZ Police is world class, and that the problems they have identified in the centres are readily fixable.
"With some high-profile exceptions, deficiencies that have arisen in the communications centres have flowed from these structural difficulties and operating pressures. In the main, the performance of staff in the centres is exemplary.
"I have indicated all along that if additional resources are needed to help relieve those pressures they will be found, either from within police budget or by an injection of new investment. This has been the focus of my discussion with Government."
However, Mr Robinson says resourcing is only part of the solution.
"The work of communication centres must be more closely integrated with the whole organisation and external stakeholders need to have a greater role in determining service delivery expectations and standards. All stakeholders have a role in educating the public around those standards", he says.
Mr Robinson believes the establishment of the National Communications Centre Advisory Board and a separate community reference panel are keys to achieving this.
"I have commenced the process of setting up the advisory board and Mr John Perham has accepted my invitation to chair it.
The other advisory board members will be; review panel member, Mr Kevin McKenna of Price Waterhouse; Mr Greg Magness, Datacom; Deputy Commissioner Steve Long; Assistant Commissioner Howard Broad; Mr Rohan Mendis, Police I&T Service Centre; and the District Commanders for Northland, Northshore Waitakere, Wellington and Canterbury.
The national manager of the communications centres will be a member of the Board.
Mr Robinson says recruitment for the National Manager position is underway. However, in the short term, Superintendent Mike Wilson will fill the role of Transition Manager of the Communication Centres.
This allows the current acting national manager Superintendent John Lyall to return to his full time duties as manager of the Northern Communications Centre.
Mr Robinson thanked Superintendent Lyall for managing the Communications Centres through an extremely difficult period.
"I appreciate the enormous effort John, the other centre managers and staff have put in. I have every confidence that with the additional measures we will be putting in place that we can rebuild confidence in the centres and achieve world class performance," says Mr Robinson.
Mr Robinson says the wide ranging review recommendations can be categorised into four key areas; demand and service delivery, leadership, training and supervision, and new technology.
"We have already started implementing some of the changes recommended by the review and other proposals will be worked through by the new advisory board and communications centre management," he says.
Response to recommendations:
A summary of Police responses to the review recommendations include:
Demand and service delivery
â€¢ Police will establish a focus panel of key stakeholders, including representatives of the rural community, community agencies and staff. This will enable police to more closely define and communicate service standards.
â€¢ Recently the District Commander for Northland, Superintendent Viv Rickard was appointed to liaise with representatives from rural communities. We are already actively engaged in discussions with these representatives on a range of issues including responses to rural emergency calls.
â€¢ Police have had discussions with Telecom and communications centre technology partners Intergraph Public Safety to improve processes for receipt of calls into the communications centres and to more effectively distribute call loads across the three centres.
â€¢ Police will work with Telecom to explore options for an alternative non-emergency contact number. This will include looking at the network of investigations into maintaining and enhancing the current system of handling incoming general calls. The suggestion to establish a separate non-emergency centre would be a major step and require close examination with Government.
â€¢ Changes will be made to the Police internet site www.police.govt.nz, as part of its ongoing development. This will include making information on communications centres and the 111 system more accessible and providing frequently asked questions covering emergency response. This may evolve to an expanded and alternative public access point in the future.
â€¢ We have established the National Communications Advisory Board.
â€¢ The board will have significant input into developing its own operating framework in consultation with the Deputy Commissioner Operations.
â€¢ The Deputy Commissioner Operations will retain overall responsibility for management decisions.
â€¢ The transitional manager and the communications centre management team, will work with the National Communications Advisory Board to consider the reviewers' recommendations.
â€¢ There will be an early focus on the command functions of the centres, especially the concept of 24 x 7 critical incident inspectors. This issue has been a perennial one for police since the advent of the centres and the recommended structure has real attraction.
â€¢ There will be strong district representation on the National Communications Advisory Board. While there are interactions at operational levels this input will help ensure more effective district input into communications centre planning and increase district understanding of communications issues. Better joining of the two critical components of the police service delivery model will improve overall responses to public demands for service.
â€¢ The Police executive will develop internal and external communications initiatives to improve understanding and interactions between Communications Centres and front line staff. Operational demands are such that we must all be operating as a single team.
â€¢ The board will also have input into the internal communications initiatives.
â€¢ Police are finalising the pilot of an automatic vehicle location (AVL) system and deciding its future role.
â€¢ Consideration will be given to the recommendation of a rural AVL trial as part of this ongoing work.
â€¢ We are making provisions for additional radio capability for police communications, particularly in the upper North Island.
â€¢ The communications centre management team will work with technology suppliers and external partners, particularly local authorities and rural representatives to improve our ability to accurately identify rural callers, locations.
Training and Supervision
â€¢ The panel reports provide a clearer understanding of staffing pressures in the communications centres and this has been addressed in discussions with Government.
â€¢ There will be increased support for communications centre training, with our national Training Service Centre (TSC) taking oversight of training development and delivery. Training will be delivered at each centre, using standardised packages coordinated by TSC staff.
â€¢ The increased use of "simulation" training which more closely reflects the real live work situation will be considered for implementation.
â€¢ Work will continue on new recruitment and career development arrangements within the communication centres to see if we can provide clearer long term options for staff. We will need the assistance of our staff industrial representatives to advance the discussions that are already underway in this regard.
â€¢ Police will investigate the feasibility of including a communications centre component into general police training, particularly for front line supervisors.
â€¢ The Communications Centre management team will be asked to investigate rostering options to provide increased flexibility to have staff available to meet peak demands.
â€¢ There will not be any departure from the current three centre structure. We will investigate alternative options for dealing with non-priority calls.
â€¢ The National Communications Centre Advisory Board will work with centre management and districts to review current practice around switching police station telephones to the communications centres when stations are not staffed.
â€¢ The Review recommends greater formality in obtaining input from the communication centres for all police major operational planning. This will be immediately mandated.
Commissioner Robinson says the review has been exactly what he wanted "an objective professional look at this part of our operations".
He says the view taken "over the horizon" is appropriate. We have not met our own or public expectations in a few notable incidents in the past 12 months. This is deeply regretted by staff and management alike.
"The review has pointed to better ways to use our highly committed communication centres staff and the world-class technology platform we operate on. This will require enhanced management input and we have already moved toward this. Further enhancements will follow.
"Additional investment in the Communication Centres has been sought from the Government and we have had a good hearing from them"
"Better arranging the deployment of staff, reducing incoming non-priority telephone calls from within the Police, enhancing on-going professional training and expanding potential technical aids to assist service delivery will all contribute to the improved service we seek".
"Changes to our operations are flagged. Once the recommendations are fully understood they will be implemented. The rigour and support offered by the Communication Centres Advisory Board will provide assurance to all the interested parties, including the executive and myself.
"I am grateful for John Perham, Kevin McKenna, and Greg Magness for their commitment to contribute their leadership skills to this important enterprise".
"Our energy now needs to be channelled into the actions required to take the Police service to the public to a higher level."
"I believe the next 12 to 24 months will see both incremental and significant improvements," Mr Robinson says.
See also: Communications Centres Review Report: https://www.police.govt.nz/about-us/publication/communications-centres-service-centre-independent-external-review-final-report