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SIO Corner: Use of ‘Call-Centres’ And Action Management

This week we focus look at the use of 'Call Centres' and an introduction into managing actions

In this series we look at various aspects of life as an SIO. This includes the necessary skill sets for the successful SIO, the management of serious crime investigation and specific elements of investigative practice from initial response through crime scene examination and investigative strategies to dealing with suspects and the media. The articles are excerpts from the 2nd edition of Blackstone's, the 'Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook', written by two highly experienced SIOs (see 'About the Authors' at the end of the article).

Use of ‘Call-Centres’

If the investigation is receiving a large volume of messages and telephone calls from the public, eg where the enquiry is of high public and media interest like the Soham killings of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, a dedicated ‘call-centre’ (similar to a Casualty Bureau) may be required to handle the vast influx of information with a senior supervisor appointed to manage it on the SIO’s behalf. A gold commander would probably be responsible for providing and arranging this facility.

Recent developments such as NMAT (National Mutual Aid Telephony), CASWEB, and MIRWEB can provide the ability to deal with the receipt of a mass volume of information remotely through HVM (High Volume Messaging) now embedded within HOLMES2.

Facilities such as those provided by MIRWEB allow for the electronic recording of messages across linked forces directly onto HOLMES2 on a mutual aid basis. This new add-on technology was successfully used in the 2006 investigation into murders of five women in Ipswich and positively commented upon in the NPIA (2008) Tactical Debrief: Operation Sumac (see Tactical Debrief: Operation Sumac (London, NPIA, 2008).

Note: If using a dedicated call management facility the SIO should nominate dedicated staff to scrutinize all the messages received, prioritize them, identify any potential significant witnesses, and ensure any vital information is recognized and acted upon quickly.

Action Management

The term ‘Action’ is defined as: ‘Any activity which, if pursued, is likely to establish significant facts, preserve material, or lead to the resolution of the investigation’ (Practice Advice on Core Investigation Doctrine (ACPO, 2005), 77).

The term ‘action’ in the literal sense refers to the process of doing something or the performance of an activity. It is widely used in the language and discourse of major incident investigation and referred to extensively in MIRSAP. Actions are numbered on printed documents containing instructions or directions to perform tasks and serve as a method to record, distribute, perform, and manage workloads and tasks that drive an enquiry (denoted as A1, A2, A12, etc).

Actions will detail specific instructions and a course of action, whom it has been allocated to, time and date, its origin, and the enquiry result. This document passes through various supervisory roles in an MIR before finally reaching the SIO, who has to make a decision as to whether to file it as complete, return it for rework, or raise further tasks from it to be completed.

MIRSAP states:

4.3 Actions

Actions are generated from information gathered during the investigation and may be requested by any member of the major incident room. Actions are raised once authorized by any of the following: SIO, D/SIO, office manager, receiver, document reader. Actions can be raised and registered by any of the indexes. Each action is given a unique reference number which is the next consecutive number prefixed by the letter ‘A’.

4.3.1 Action management

Action management should ensure that each action:

Associated documentation must be made accessible to complete the task. Action result text completed by the enquiry officer should contain:

The raising, allocating, resulting, and reviewing of actions is the process by which all enquiry team workloads and activities are organized and managed. Actions are generated from information received or gathered during the investigation and should be raised and authorized only by specific persons within the enquiry, usually the SIO/DSIO, office manager, receiver, document reader, or nominated action writer at SIO instruction (ie during briefings/debriefings).

It is important that, once allocated, actions must be properly supervised, a function normally undertaken by a person appointed to act as an action manager. If this function is not done correctly, the efficiency of the enquiry will suffer. All allocated actions must remain under constant supervision as to:

It is worth considering the acronym SMARTER—all actions/tasks should be:

S Specific
M Meaningful
A Achievable
R Realistic
T Time-specific
E Ethical
R Recorded

The person who performs the action manager role must, on behalf of the SIO, maintain an awareness of staff workloads and match skills and experience to the right tasks. This role needs to draw upon good planning and organizing skills to prevent potential problems, such as staff going on leave, courses, court commitments, etc and to ensure tasks are completed in a timely and efficient fashion.


Pre-planned enquiries should not be undertaken without an action first being raised and allocated under the SIO’s direction. However, this may not always be the case and the SIO/MIR has to remain vigilant to ensure all work undertaken is done through the correct channels and under the full control and supervision of the enquiry management system (HOLMES2).

About the Authors:

Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a CID officer with Greater Manchester Police for over 31 years until his retirement in 2009. During his time as an SIO, he led a number of high profile investigations including operations into gangland violence at Moss Side, the Bolton murder of a teenage girl in 2002, and the Denton strangling case. He was a trained assessor for promotion and a qualified Authorising Officer under RIPA. Tony received 14 commendations and a first-class BSc Honours degree in social sciences and a Diploma in Social Policy & Criminology from the Open University.

Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit. With over 29 years in CID at all ranks Andy received the Homicide Working Group National Award for his Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Homicide in November 2006.

To see more details about the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook, or to purchase a copy, click here

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