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Inforamtion from our Annual Federation Conference.

British Transport
Police Federation
Chairman's speech Wednesday 22 March 2017

Welcome

Transport Minister, Fraternal Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Colleagues, welcome to this year's British Transport Police Federation Conference.

As ever, it has been a very busy year for the British Transport Police and our Federation. This is my second Chairman's address to conference. Last year it was a bit like jumping in at the deep end. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year and hopefully I am now swimming a little stronger and I want to cover a lot, so here goes.

Excellence

My first and most pleasant duty is to congratulate and thank all of our most steadfast officers for their continued excellence and professionalism in helping to keep the travelling public safe throughout the country. It was a privilege to be present last night when we were able to honour some of our colleagues. I greatly enjoyed the evening. I am very proud of their achievements but let us not forget the achievements of so many others whose sterling work often goes unnoticed.

Mental Health

In 2016, we all saw the horrific pictures of the aftermath of the tragic incident in Croydon, where a tram overturned causing the deaths of 7 People. The BTP were the force that was called upon to investigate the crash and it was our officers who supported the families that had suffered such a devastating loss. Thankfully we were quickly able to reassure the public that there is no innate danger in the trams themselves.

Recently I carried out some research. I discovered that in 2015 (the last year for which figures are available) Home Office police officers dealt with 1,732 road deaths, 518 homicides and 5,400 suicides. That's 1 sudden or violent death for every 50 officers. But Railways are dangerous places and in the same period, there were 447 sudden or violent deaths on the railway and tube networks. That is 1 death for every 5 transport police officers. Sadly as we all know, the vast majority of the deaths in our jurisdiction are suicides. Death on the railways is always traumatic; families are understandably shocked and distressed; and it is BTP officers that are left to deal with the aftermath. Our members are 10 times more likely to have to deal with these distressing incidents. Why do I mention these sad facts? Am I looking for a pay rise? No, but I am asking that the proper support is available for our members, such as the provision of counselling. We have to eliminate PTSD as far as is feasibly possible. PTSD and stress are hidden illnesses, not easily recognised by the sufferer or their colleagues or line managers. It is in everyone's interest that officers' mental health is maintained. We recently saw Prince Harry on the news calling for paramedics to receive counselling to prevent and treat PTSD and to reduce stress and sickness.

Counselling should not be something an officer has to ask for. Our members need that offer of support. There must be mandatory referrals for voluntary counselling, even if that offer is not taken up or needed. If it is offered and declined, then the employer has done their duty. If it is offered and accepted, then the employer benefits from having less officers struggling to cope at work with stress and mental illness. This would increase performance and result in less sickness. That's a no-brainer.

Chief Constable, please can we have compulsory referral. It is in everyone's interest.

Morale

We often hear that morale in policing is at rock bottom - It certainly feels like that to me when I listen to colleagues in Home Office forces. However we are fortunate in the BTP not to have reached rock bottom --- YET. Morale needs to be nurtured and never taken for granted.

One thing that could improve is the constant disruption from management with short notice shift changes and cancelled rest days. This does affect morale. All police officers understand that theirs is not a 9-5 job and that they will have to work unsocial hours; they understand that their duty can change for unforeseen or urgent situations but we also know that when officers have their rest days cancelled or shifts changed on a regular basis, it affects their morale and their well-being to perform their role effectively. Officers who do not get sufficient rest may be a risk to themselves and the organisation. Tiredness and stress lead to higher rates of sickness. A healthy officer is an efficient officer. Respite is no longer a common theme in policing; it is in short supply due to the increasing demands made on the police and the lack of resources.

We never forget that police officers join the job because they want to help people. They have a natural "Can do" attitude but their goodwill can only stretch so far. Nobody understands better than us "Just get on with it" but that doesn't help to build up morale. Officers' goodwill is being abused to cover up for poor planning and poor management. Police officers have a right to a family life.

It is time to ensure that such short notice changes and cancellations are only undertaken when there is a real need, a genuine exigency of duty and not as sometimes seems to be the case, merely on a whim.

Thankfully the BTP have made some progress in reducing the amount of rest days that are cancelled but much more needs to be done. When officers are offered a rewarding and fulfilling career and feel that their managers appreciate them, morale will remain high and funnily enough, so do retention rates. When officers' morale drops, retention rates drop. A lack of officers creates more gaps in the rosters which in turn creates low morale and officers leaving and so the spiral goes on. It's not rocket science. The BTP is recruiting but we cannot waste the opportunity to improve morale and retention.

Reform and Budget Cuts

If you ask most recruits why they chose a career in policing they will often respond with "Because every day is different!" The irony is that the first thing most officers do when confronted with change, is moan about it! Joking aside, yes we like the unpredictability of our work but no we don't want constant, unremitting change, sometimes when it appears to be change for change sake!

Budget cuts in times of financial crisis are understandable. We are told that there is a need for greater efficiency. We get that, but it is surely foolhardy to expect every budget cut to increase efficiency and every policy change or project to actually work. It is a common joke amongst police officers that a management project never fails! Surely we have to accept that some changes of policy (great as they sound in the management meeting) when tested on the front line, simply don't work.

We must listen to frontline officers when they raise a hand with real and practical concerns. Officers are entitled to feel alarmed when they hear of more savings. The mantra of more for less is constant. When you try to do more with the same, you don't always get more. I was reminded of the hard-pressed mum with hungry children who cuts a 12" pizza into 8 slices instead of 6. Yes there are more slices of pizza but no extra pizza. Four year olds may be content with the deception but they will still be hungry. Too much public sector reform is in danger of becoming simply a deception.

Governments and police leaders know they can rely on our goodwill but constant cuts and constant changes are rapidly eroding this goodwill. Cost cutting has gone far enough. More for less may sound good on the politician's campaign trail, but what sounds good on the soapbox does not always translate into reality.

Enough is now enough! Please give us a break, before the damage is so severe that public safety is put at risk.

If we are to face future reform, and I welcome the decision not to carry out another infrastructure review, can we please ensure that we don't enter another round of change for change sake? Can we please, please ensure that we don't rush headlong down a path of change prompted by those who don't have to deliver it? Contrary to what you may read in the press or from certain politicians, we are not Luddites. We want to deliver improvement but when we say enough is now enough, please listen. Raft after raft of changes arriving before the last set of changes has even had time to bed in, is not conducive to improvement; instead it has the opposite effect and damages standards and attempts to improve.

In recent years we have heard from teachers, nurses, doctors, paramedics, fire-fighters, prison officers and social workers who have warned that proposed reforms and budget cuts would not improve the service they deliver. Those very people, at the frontline, warned that such reforms were more likely to cause damage. Can anyone here look me in the eye and tell me that our schools, hospitals, ambulances, fire service, prisons and care services are better or even as good as they were before the reforms? Yet the proposers of those reforms have gone. Where are they now? Promoted? Moved to different roles? Sent to the House of Lords? So who is left to try and make the job work in spite of those reforms? Who is left to carry on? The very people who said the reforms wouldn't work! And then those same politicians and managers have the gall to blame the frontline when their ill-thought out schemes don't work. If those of us at the frontline say something won't work, please listen to us. We don't do it out of fear of change. We do it because we can see the risks, the pitfalls or why it won't bring about improvement.

So involve us, consult with us, because we can help.

We are the very people who make the job work. If we work together, we can deliver a better service for the public and that's what we all want.

IPCC

And talking about reform, we are about to see a change in legislation governing the powers of the IPCC, an organisation desperately in need of reform. So much so, that I heard an experienced practitioner in misconduct say that he "wouldn't trust them to make him a cup of coffee".

They, more than anyone else, embody everything that is bad in the public sector; bureaucratic, inefficient and slow, oh so slow. Of course I can understand people saying, "Well you would say that, wouldn't you?" That attitude is to ignore that police officers are by nature law abiding. We tend to have a deep sense of "fair play". We do not want to be working next to corrupt or incompetent officers. We know that in the eyes of the public, media stories about the occasional "bad apple" tarnish us all. We want to be part of an honest, fair and professional police that serves all equally.

You may be as surprised as I was to find out that in 2015, the IPCC cost the taxpayer £54 million. For that, the taxpayer gets what? It gets investigations that drag on for years.

Every year the IPCC begin more investigations than they complete. Even with my schoolboy maths, their caseload must be continually getting larger. How is that efficient? So what are they good at? They are good at taking years to judge (with the benefit of hindsight, of course) the actions of a police officer that were taken in a split second. If a police investigation took as long as the IPCC take, officers would find themselves subject of a complaint and ironically possibly being investigated by the IPCC. It cannot be right that we have police officers whose careers are blighted for months and years, because of IPCC shortcomings, before they are finally cleared,

The IPCC in their Annual Report say that their main objective is "to hold the police to account", not to find out the truth then! So what is the latest reform of the IPCC? Believe it or not, one of the reforms allows the IPCC to convene their own misconduct hearings. Fair trial, I don't think so! Can you imagine a country where the investigation arm acts as the judiciary? Even Kim Jong Un, in North Korea, might baulk at that, but here in the land of Magna Carta, it is very, very quietly being introduced. I understand that police should be held to a higher standard, that is right, but it is not right that we are to be denied the basic tenets of justice.

It is sad that after 15 years, the police still don't trust the IPCC, and they in turn seem to dislike the police. Too often the IPCC seem to care more about positioning themselves politically rather than seeking the truth. They have a duty to act fairly in the interests of all parties and whether they like it or not, that includes police officers.

A good investigator should never make pre-assumptions. In recent history, the police have been criticised for holding pre-assumptions in high profile cases such as the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the tragic events at Hillsboro. Yet far too often, at the very onset of an investigation, the public statements of the IPCC seem to assume that whatever has happened, it is the fault of the police. You cannot hold such pre-assumptions and retain the right to call yourself independent. Nearly 2000 years ago the Roman writer, Juvenal said "Who guards the guards?" Now I ask who holds the IPCC to account? The Police Federations have tried but have been ignored. Is it not time for an Ombudsman; or an Inspectorate? We need a public body to look at cases and question why it has taken a year to take 3 statements. How would an IPCC investigation stand up to scrutiny? I believe that all too many of their investigations would be shown to be poor and unprofessional.

Surely an IPCC that learns how to investigate properly, fairly and expediently is in the interests of everyone?

TASER

The Police Federation of England & Wales estimate that there are 2.4 million assaults on police a year, that's one every 4 minutes. The Crown Prosecution Service so rarely pursue a charge of Assault on Police that most officers actually think the offence has been taken off the statute!

In the not too distant past, anyone assaulting an officer could expect to serve a custodial sentence. Sadly the courts no longer administer a deterrent to those people who have so little respect for law and order, that they are content to abuse and assault those whose duty it is to uphold those laws.

And let's not forget, our officers are often assaulted because they are trying to protect members of the public. They rightly put themselves in harm's way to safeguard others.

And what sorts of assaults do they face? Punches, spitting, bites, yes, but also far too frequently, knives, machetes and guns. So Chief Constable, Minister, what can you do to "Protect the protectors"?

We are in the 21st century. This is the age of technology. So let's use it.

Chief Constable, we are very grateful to you for already agreeing to the use of spit guards. Their availability will greatly help. Please let us now look at Body Cams. They provide best evidence. They act as a deterrent. They protect officers from malicious complaints and they offer public reassurance.

You must provide better protection for the officers you employ so they can better protect the public they serve. Quite simply, officers need personal protective equipment that will quickly end violent confrontations; something that will cause even the most hardened offender to think twice; something that has a proven track record of preventing an escalation of violence.

All the evidence points to one solution………..more Taser.

Data from the 43 Home Office Forces and BTP show overwhelmingly that officers who carry Taser are much less likely to be assaulted. The simple presence of Taser is sufficient to quell most violence. Many may be surprised to learn that Taser is still rarely used. The threat of Taser is usually enough to prevent injury to both the public and the police.

It is in the interests of the Government, the BTP and most of all the fare paying public, that we all work together to reduce violence, reduce assaults and reduce injuries. Less injuries means less sickness and that equates to more officers being there to protect the public.

Taser combined with Body Cams would provide an additional safeguard offering reassurance to all rail travellers.

Taser is simple common sense.

Wearing hard hats on building sites reduces injury, so the government legislate to make it compulsory. Wearing seat belts reduces injury, so the government legislate to make it compulsory.

More officers carrying Taser will reduce injury, but all we see is too much hand wringing.

Taser is not a lethal weapon. It is a proven defensive asset. Can we stop pussyfooting around and do what we all know is the right thing to do……….increase the availability of Taser.

Firearms The British Transport Police has a firearms capability. Officers in London now routinely patrol major transport hubs with firearms. We know that passengers benefit from a more secure environment and are reassured by the sight of armed officers. As we all too tragically know, transport hubs are likely to figure very highly on any terrorist's target list.

So it must be great to be a rail passenger at Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds or Edinburgh. These major cities clearly have no terrorist threat. How do I know this? Because there are no armed BTP officers outside London. Presumably because there is no threat of armed crime or terrorist activity?

How does that make sense? Even without the terrorist threat, what about organised crime? There is a wealth of intelligence to show that organised crime is far more national than local. Whether it is drugs; people trafficking or dealing in firearms; these gangs are prepared to operate in any major city be it Leicester, Southampton or Bristol. Surely we can't exclude the possibility that some of the leaders of organised crime can figure out that their delivery men are less likely to meet armed police if they travel by railway rather than road.

I have never been of the opinion that every police officer in the UK should be armed.

I am certainly not of the opinion that every BTP officer should be armed.

I do support the idea that the police should have an armed capability, a capability that can be called on quickly when required. The fact that there are no armed officers outside London, leaving the rest of the Rail network without any capability whatsoever, is just plain silly. I know firearms training costs money, but we have to do better than this.

The terrorist who attacked Glasgow's Prestwick Airport didn't care that he was outside London. All UK citizens deserve to be treated the same.

Why is the passenger commuting from Wolverhampton to Birmingham not offered the same level of protection as the commuter travelling from Watford to Euston?

Police Scotland

Minister I now come to perhaps the most important part of my speech today, the Scottish question.

So those of you starting to power nap, wake up.

Minister I am a police officer and I have been trained to deal with evidence.

The evidence is that the British Transport Police have performed better than Police Scotland in reducing reported crime. On the railways, crime has been reduced by 39% while passenger traffic has increased by 53%. An impressive evidential fact.

Each BTP officer deals with 20% more crimes than each Police Scotland officer, in addition to the unique responsibilities of being a transport officer.

The evidence is that the BTP has been subject to more HMIC reviews than Police Scotland; and the HMIC has consistently rated the BTP as effective.

Do you want more evidence?

Lord Harris conducted an independent review into the BTP functions in London. He was so impressed with BTP initiatives that he suggested that the Metropolitan Police could do no better than adopting some BTP policies. High praise indeed from the former head of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

The BTP has a proven track record of policing transport infrastructure and keeping passengers and staff safe.

The BTP has a proven track record of investigations into rail related accidents.

Whilst we have nothing against Police Scotland, they simply don't have that.

The evidence is that we provide the government with cost effective policing and security.

As I said earlier, it was the BTP who responded and investigated the Croydon tram crash. It was the BTP who investigated the fatal crashes at Grayrigg and Potters Bar and many others.

In Croydon it was important for the travelling public that they were quickly reassured that tram travel is safe and to identify quickly what caused the accident.

Would a transport police subsumed into Police Scotland have that area of expertise were an accident to happen in Glasgow?

So what benefits are there to Police Scotland? Our research amongst the serving officers who could be affected by such a transfer, shows that a considerable number would simply retire rather than run the risk of a change to their employee status; a change to their pay and conditions; a change to their pensions.

As I said, as a police officer, I have to look at the evidence.

I look in vain for any evidence that supports the call for a Scottish split. I have asked to see the full results of the Scottish Parliament's consultation process but it is under lock and key and no-one is allowed to see it, all we get is an analytical report. Why? If there is evidence it should be open and transparent. Let the travelling public see it!

Where is the evidence that such a transfer of responsibility would lead to improvements?

Police Scotland is already under strength, where is the evidence that Transport officers won't be taken away from the railways to plug gaps elsewhere?

Where is the evidence that the train companies will be willing to pay for police officers that may end up working away from the railways?

Where is the evidence that the travelling public in Scotland deserve a reduced Transport policing service?

Where is the evidence that Scotland has the financial resources to pay for such a transfer of responsibility?

If there is evidence, then let everyone see it.

We are not afraid to look at the evidence. We are not afraid to have our evidence judged.

BUT in the absence of any other evidence, I am forced to conclude that the Scottish National Party's grab to control the Transport Police in Scotland is no more than a childish wish to play with their own train set!

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP aren't interested in evidence. They will cynically take every opportunity to pursue their aggressive ideology even when it actually isn't in the interests of Scottish rail passengers or their safety.

But we as police officers know it is important to do the right thing to keep the public safe. That's what we do.

Minister, no government has a greater responsibility than that of keeping its citizens safe. National Security is the purvey of the UK Parliament NOT the Scottish Parliament.

Yesterday, Minister, I gave you a letter asking that the issue of policing the railways in Scotland be treated as a matter of national security. I have sent similar letters to the Prime Minister, The Home Secretary and the Justice Minister. I believe the safety and security of train passengers and staff in Scotland is far too important to be decided by a group with more than a little self-interest.

We all know that transport and transport infrastructure is high on any list of terrorist targets.

I believe that the BTP working in conjunction with Police Scotland, just as we work with the Metropolitan Police, just as we work with West Mercia, just as we work with West Yorkshire and many others provides the best solution.

An integrated Transport Police works and we have the evidence to prove it. We are the British Transport Police because we have an integrated British Transport network.

There's an old saying that has been ignored far too many times and that is "If it ain't broke don't fix it"

The travelling public and railways staff deserves to have their security debated in the proper forum and that is the UK parliament. I am not afraid to have our evidence tested in that forum and I challenge the Scottish government to produce their evidence.

Minister I implore you and the United Kingdom government to exercise your rights to have this matter judged by the people who are elected to look after the safety of ALL United Kingdom citizens and not people whose only reasoning seems to be some sort of Nationalistic jingoism.

Conclusion

In conclusion Minister, I want to confess to the sin of pride. I am proud of the men and women of the British Transport Police. I am proud of the work they do to keep the travelling public safe. I am proud of their record of accident investigation. I am proud of the way they deal with tragic deaths that alas all too often occur on our railways. I am proud of the way they respond to change and seek to improve the service they deliver. I am proud to be a British Transport Police Officer.

Thank you for listening.

Nigel Goodband
National Chairman BTPF
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