A “surge in levels of demand” meant that 101 calls to Beds Police went unanswered for two hours yesterday evening, according to a chief inspector.
It comes just months after the force issued guidance to the public to use the ‘non-life threatening’ 101 service instead of 999.
After news of the suspended service was shared by the force on Twitter yesterday, there was widespread anger from politicians and the public.
Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh retweeted the post, adding: “Wow #cutshaveconsequences.”
The chairman of the England & Wales Police Federation, John Apter, posted: “This is reality. This is a Chief Constable trying to manage limited officer numbers against an increasing demand. The sad fact is we have to prioritise. The public are being let down, not by this Chief but by this Prime Minister.
“This is shocking,” tweeted Central Beds Cllr Richard Stay, who represents Caddington.
A former police officer tweeted: “Never thought I’d see the day! So glad I’m out of it but I really do feel for those left behind trying to do their best in such difficult times.”
Another person posted: “Poorly funded, overstretched, understaffed and underresourced. Something has got to give. So sorry for those left to deal with this.”
In June, Beds Police issued instructions to the public to use the ‘non-life threateneing’ 101 service instead of 999, in order to prioritise emergency calls.
Today, Chief Inspector Rachael Glendenning said: “On Tuesday evening, our force contact centre received a surge in levels of demand to our 999 and 101 services, which meant for a two-hour period from 8pm, we had to focus our resources on dealing with emergency incidents.
“During this period we briefly suspended our non-emergency 101 service, which allowed operators to prioritise those incidents which needed an immediate police response.
“I’d like to reassure everyone that emergency calls were still being responded to, and we have a number of contingency measures in place to ensure that, even during our busiest periods, emergency calls are being answered.
“Our service has been operating fully since 10pm, and we appreciate the patience and understanding of the public.”