‘How big is your bum?’, ‘Can I shoot a rat in my house please?’ and ‘My ex-wife is 10 minutes late bringing my daughter home’ are just some of the bizarre calls that came into Humberside Police’s force control room.
Call takers never know what they’ll be dealing with next time they pick up the phone. It can be anything from a distraught parent whose child has gone missing to a victim of domestic abuse.
Sometimes they have to deal with calls about issues which should really be directed to other agencies or not made at all.
Experienced call handler Carly Spouse, who has worked in the control room since 2015, said: “I know that every shift I will get at least one call related to mental health issues and at least one about domestic abuse but no two of these calls are ever the same.”
Recalling a particular call that has remained etched in her memory she added: “One that stands out for me is the woman who called 999 repeatedly to ask how big my bum is.
“She rang back a few times and we ended up having to flag her to our inspector so she could be dealt with officially for wasting police time.
“We get so many ridiculous calls that you can’t dwell on them. You just have to deal with it, think ‘what a waste of time’ and move on to the next call and hope this is from someone who we can help.
“Some of the worst are when you come off the phone and think ‘I can’t believe they just rang for that’.”
Karen Doyle, who has worked as a contact officer for almost seven years, believes the best part of the job is “knowing that we have helped people”
However, she has also had to deal with inappropriate phone calls, adding: “A lady called us to say that she could see smoke coming out of her neighbour’s kitchen but she was away from home.
“I asked if she had called the fire service and she said she hadn’t as she didn’t want to waste their time.
“We also get people calling us when they find someone who has collapsed in the street because they don’t want to bother the ambulance service.
“We always urge them to call the appropriate service but we also end up flagging it with them ourselves so that we know it’s being dealt with and no one is in danger.
“We also get the opposite end of the scale – particularly with elderly people – where they should be calling 999 and they don’t.”