Staff illness leads to Falkirk police lock-out

The public found closed doors when they turned up at Falkirk Police Station''Picture: Michael Gillen
The public found closed doors when they turned up at Falkirk Police Station''Picture: Michael Gillen

Police were forced to lock the doors of their Falkirk town centre headquarters after civilian staff phoned in sick.

People turning up at the West Bridge Street premises were met with a sign telling them to call the Police Scotland service centre for help.

But after being left hanging on for over 15 minutes, disgruntled members of the public gave up and left.

It is understood pulling officers off frontline duties to cover the front counter was never an option for police chiefs who are under strict instructions to keep cops on the streets as much as possible.

One fed-up member of the public who visited the office last week said: “There is a sign saying it is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. till midnight, but on the closed door was another sign saying to use the callpoint to contact the service centre.

“I was told that I was in a queue but after 15 minutes, I gave up and left, as did others who were waiting.”

Michael Matheson, Falkirk West MSP and who as justice minister has responsibility for policing, was unaware of the situation until contacted by The Falkirk Herald. It is understood he was then given an update on the closure.

Assistant Chief Constable Val Thomson said: “In the short term the unavailability of civilian members of staff resulted in the front counter at Falkirk police office being closed on some occasions to the public. However there is a callpoint outside the police office, which connects members of the public to the Police Scotland contact centre where they can report any incident.

“Calls received from contact points at police offices are treated in the same way as calls received through the 101 non-emergency number. The average time for connecting a 101 non-emergency call is one minute in the east of Scotland, with many calls being answered in less time.

“We regularly answer 999 calls in less than 10 seconds with the average being nine seconds.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Police Scotland deals with around four million calls from members of the public each year – 600,000 emergency 999 calls and 3.4 million non-emergency 101 calls. Ninety per cent of 999 calls are answered within 10 seconds, while the majority of 101 calls are answered within 40 seconds. These figures can of course, be affected by spikes in demand where major events or incidents happen and this can lead to excessive call volumes.”