When people think of a police force they very often tend to picture a bobby on the beat, a detective solving crimes or a police officer rushing to an emergency.

In fact, a modern-day police force is made up of a wide variety of different roles, both police officer and police staff, and many of those jobs are often overlooked by the general public.

Here at Wiltshire Police we have a whole host of teams and departments that support the front line and keep the service running.

Every single one of these people has a vital role to play and I wanted to use this column to highlight just one of our teams – the officers and staff who work in our Control Room answering 101 and 999 phone calls.

The importance of their role cannot be overestimated.

Every single day they are the voice at the end of the phone when people call them about some of the most frightening, tragic or upsetting incidents you can imagine.

They provide calm reassurance to those who are scared or worried, listening to concerns and tasking our operational frontline police officers and staff to the incidents which pose the greatest threat, harm or risk.

It is common knowledge that all police forces face huge levels of demand, and these call-takers are the ones who make those split-second decisions about how to prioritise the resources we have to keep our communities safe.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a new demand on police forces – on top of the day-to-day crimes, incidents and emergencies, we now also need to respond to concerns from the public about those who are failing to follow the Government’s Covid restrictions.

Therefore, it is vitally important that our call-handlers are only dealing with phone calls that relate to police matters.

Obviously, if there is an emergency or a crime is being committed, we would always urge you to call us on 999.

But if you are thinking of calling us about a non-urgent matter, please take a moment to consider whether we are the right people to contact. Perhaps your enquiry could be better directed at the local authority or a healthcare professional when the nature of your call is not a policing issue.

You can also find a whole host of information, including how to make non-urgent reports online, on our website www.wiltshire.police.uk, as well as advice on www.askthe.police.uk

So please, let’s all work together to keep those phone lines as clear as possible, so our call-handlers can provide the best possible service to members of the public who genuinely need to call 999 or 101.