Trained to find the truth

Emergency communications officer (ECO) Mohamad Suhaimi Ami once took a 999 call from a woman who wanted to order a pizza.

He told her she was calling the police line, but she nervously repeated that she wanted to order a pizza.

Suhaimi, who has been with the Police Operations Command Centre (POCC) for about seven years, quickly realised that the woman was in distress and was trying to get help, but she was unable to speak freely over the phone.

He began to ask her yes-and-no questions, which provided more information on her plight.

“Using the topic of ordering food, I got more information, including her address, and the police were dispatched to the location, ” he said.

“For some calls, you need to pick up on the signs. Some people don’t have the opportunity to tell you straight about the problem, ” Suhaimi added.

ECOs are trained to identify coded messages from those in distress, and have to clear an internal competency test before they are allowed to handle live 999 calls.

This is crucial as the POCC handles more than a million 999 calls a year. Last year, it recorded about 1.19 million calls, or more than 3,000 a day.

But more than 60% were nuisance calls, including those made by wilful children and callers who kept silent over the phone.

Officially launched in 2015, the POCC is the nerve centre of the Singapore Police Force’s operations, working proactively to detect crime, deploy frontline officers, and support responding officers with findings from sense-making. — The Straits Times/ANN

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