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Staff mount campaign to save under-threat police control room from closure

Staff at an under-threat police control room have mounted a campaign to save it from closure.

Dumfries control room is one of five Police Scotland facilities dealing with emergency calls which has been earmarked for closure.

Plans published last week show it will be shut down in April if the force's proposals are approved.

Staff say they have been left "in a state of bewilderment and shock", and warned the removal of call handlers in the area with local knowledge could cost lives.

The 34 staff have written a joint letter to the board members and chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), who will meet on Thursday to consider the closures.

The SPA has the authority to decide whether the proposals can be progressed.

The staff want a full public consultation to take place before any decision is made.

They have also launched a campaign on social media, and will meet politicians and trade unions in the coming days.

In their letter to the SPA, they wrote that they had been given repeated assurances that no changes to control rooms would take place until after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer.

The letter says: "I am sure that you will be aware that there is considerable anger and resentment at this proposal from Police Scotland.

"We are aware that members of Dumfries and Galloway Council met with DCC Fitzpatrick on January 22 and specifically raised their concerns over the police control room in Dumfries.

"Three times she allegedly assured them that there would be full consultation with the council before any proposals were put forward. That simply did not happen. The council have been misled and so have police staff."

The letter described the prospect of closure as "very grim for all of the 34 civilian staff and their families".

It continues: "But this itself is nothing compared to the potential consequences for local policing in Dumfries and Galloway.

"As a result of this decision, public confidence in Police Scotland within this area is rapidly diminishing.

"People cannot quite believe that Police Scotland, having already taken away their ability to call at a police station front desk in some areas, now intend to remove their ability to speak to an operator with first-hand knowledge of their area in an emergency or indeed non-emergency situation. Lack of local knowledge could cost someone their life."

The letter also challenges plans to use technology to pinpoint the location of callers.

It says: "Technology can and does fail. You will not find local place names on mapping systems.

"Local dialects can mean callers are difficult to understand, especially if the call-handler is in a completely different part of the country."

The staff also say that it is not practical for them to be redeployed to other facilities, as they would have to travel to the central belt every day, or face moving away.

SPA chair Vic Emery said: "We recognise that this is a complex and sensitive proposal which has long-term implications for the organisation of policing, and the service's engagement with local communities. We have received a number of representations from staff and other interested parties since the proposals were published last week and these will inform the board's consideration of the issue.

"Before taking a decision on whether this strategic proposal is progressed, SPA members will ensure that the rationale behind this proposal is well evidenced, that the delivery plan is sound, and that the outcomes will deliver service benefits for all parts of Scotland.

"That will clearly include considering the impact of the proposals on our people, both officers and staff, and how that will be managed."

SPA chair Vic Emery said: "We recognise that this is a complex and sensitive proposal which has long-term implications for the organisation of policing, and the service's engagement with local communities. We have received a number of representations from staff and other interested parties since the proposals were published last week and these will inform the board's consideration of the issue.

"Before taking a decision on whether this strategic proposal is progressed, SPA members will ensure that the rationale behind this proposal is well evidenced, that the delivery plan is sound, and that the outcomes will deliver service benefits for all parts of Scotland.

"That will clearly include considering the impact of the proposals on our people, both officers and staff, and how that will be managed."

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "If the strategic proposal about contact, command and control is progressed by the Scottish Police Authority, all staff will have opportunities to raise any issues in the full consultation that will follow."

Liberal Democrat South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume said: "I am 100% behind the staff at Dumfries police control room.

"Their local knowledge is vital in ensuring the efficient response given by local police control rooms. I share their frustration at the lack of a consultation on this matter and on the future of their jobs."

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