Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Colleagues, here is the blog for April 2019; I'm going to begin with a couple of messages of thanks.
Firstly, thank you to all those officers who had their Easter weekend disrupted because of the Extinction Rebellion climate change demonstrations in London. Some of the media coverage of police activity was again less than complimentary. Nevertheless, whenever and wherever I have been in meetings listening to what was happening, I have heard nothing but praise for BTP officers, especially those officers who dealt with protestors on the DLR. You should be immensely proud of the excellent work you have all delivered.
Again, this was evidence of police officers stepping up to the mark at the last minute, putting family and private life to one side, and parading on duty without hesitation. Officers understand their role and responsibilities and they know there is a job to be done. That goodwill, self-motivation and professionalism is commendable but if Government and others don't start recognising and respecting that commitment, then policing in this country will erode beyond recognition. Well done to all of you who were affected; we the Federation certainly appreciate it.
Secondly, our thanks and congratulations to Leon McLeod who this weekend completed the London Marathon in a time of 5 hours and 32 minutes. Leon was running for the non-profit support organisation, PTSD999, and at the time of publishing this blog had raised just shy of £7,000. Thanks to Leon for being so honest about the impact trauma can have on officers and for doing something to help others who find themselves dealing with similar feelings.
You may recall that at our annual conference in March I spoke of the suggestion that TfL had given notice to BTP to cease funding of 160 officers in London. I warned that in the current climate of increasing violent crime and the ongoing terrorist threat that any such decision would be foolhardy, reckless and dangerous. I have since had conversations with senior personnel at TfL who reassured me that they are none of these things.
They explained there is no intention to reduce the number of police officers in BTP London; if anything, they believe the current climate should lead to an increase in police numbers and I agree with that point. I was informed that TfL had funded an additional 160 police officers and PCSO's under an enhanced Police Service Agreement. Due to the demand review conducted by BTP in 2017 there was a reshuffle and those officers were moved from London Underground (LU) to core policing.
Core policing however does cover TfL and other parts of London. Due to the officers and staff no longer being solely LU resources, it is TfL's view that they should not single-handily pay for those officers. Again, I can somewhat understand why they have reached that conclusion. I asked who would fund those officers if funding from TfL was to cease and was informed it would be a matter for the BTP Authority to resolve with other Train Operating Companies.
It does sadden me to hear that BTP, BTPA and TfL have reached a point of disputing funding and I do have some unanswered questions and concerns about the motives of those involved. BTP police the railways of this country and I don't mind saying that we do an excellent job doing so. The adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rings true with this particular issue.
I may never understand the full funding model or how the cogs and wheels of funding works for the entire force, but our experiences in Scotland showed us that railway police funding is not a simplistic matter nor is it something that can be tampered with. Introducing changes to funding and constant changes to policing is not always to the benefit of frontline policing, and this is a serious concern. The failed DRD project is clearly being used as a tool of blame; that said, what is more important public safety or profit/efficiencies? Public safety comes at a price and policing budgets are already being stretched and should not be tampered with.
We will seek further clarity and reassurances from BTPA about the 160 officers and funding. To date I have been informed that BTPA don't intend to make any officers redundant, but, we still don't know where that funding is coming from and how long it will remain in place. That must be clarified.
Terms and conditions
Regarding our discussions with the force in relation to your regulations and T&Cs, we have met with members of the Force management team and a draft document is now in place. We had some very interesting discussions, especially around pay and entitlements, and I must say it was a very productive meeting with some very positive and balanced discussions. The draft document will be subject to further work and hopefully by the end of June this year we will see a more detailed document that we can start negotiating on, resulting in a final product that can be circulated to you all. I will keep you informed as this topic progresses.
You may also recollect that last month I made mention of the lack of a bilateral agreement for the transfer of officers' pensions relating to the CARE scheme. This remains an ongoing problem, especially for officers who have transferred in to BTP in the last 3-4 years and for those on a CARE scheme pension. Currently there is still no bilateral agreement in place to allow for the transfer of one CARE scheme in to another. BTP/A have been in discussions with the Home Office, Treasury, RPMI and DFT in an attempt to resolve this issue however there many complexities and no overnight fix.
We completely understand the impact of this and the concern it's causing officers. BTP is treating this matter as a priority and we hope to receive updates shortly. A meeting had taken place at Blundell Street, instigated by some of the officers affected by the lack of an agreement, and I hope it reassured officers that action is being taken. There are no guarantees regarding the transfer of pensions and our advice remains that any officer who is affected or have concerns should seek independent advice from a pension advisor.
Next week those officers affected will receive some further documentation on this matter from the Federation's lawyer, including a questionnaire and a briefing note from the Force. Please, if anyone has any concerns or is affected by the pensions situation and you are not receiving any information please contact us and we can get your details on the list. Furthermore, if you have any questions regarding the information you receive then please don't hesitate to contact us.
This month I had the pleasure of attending the Scottish Police Federation biannual conference and their centenary dinner. This gave me the opportunity to again speak with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP, senior civil servants from the Scottish Government and senior personnel in Police Scotland. I reminded them of the excellent work done by our colleagues in BTP Scotland; all were very complimentary, and most were accepting of the recent decision to explore alternatives options to full integration.
Talking of alternatives, we haven't yet seen the final plans for an alternative option, but we are satisfied with the reassurances that whatever that option looks like, it will not impact on officers pay, pensions and T&Cs, which is a massive positive for all in BTP. Clearly the alternative option must be road tested and it needs to demonstrate that it will address the recommendations of the Smith Commission and meet the principles of devolution. Although many are satisfied with this outcome, I for one still have a level of scepticism because the next two/three years are going to be very difficult. BTP Scotland, in particular, will remain under immense scrutiny and I believe there are certain MSPs who will quietly sit at the sidelines hoping the alternative is ineffective. So, although in the main it is good news for the rank and file officers of BTP there is still a long road before complete certainty can be provided and we will continue to campaign for that level of reassurance needed by all.
The event celebrating 100 years of the Scottish Police Federation was a very enjoyable evening and I am grateful to the SPF for the invitation to both their conference and dinner. I hope BTP Federation can enjoy similar recognition in 2021, when we mark 100 years of our organisation.
Finally, but importantly I want to mention a couple of recent discipline/criminal cases that have been in the media this month. I can't comment on the specific details of the cases but will comment on the impact of both.
One is the reinstatement of PC Kerry Reynolds. Kerry has lived through more than two years uncertainty following an IPCC/IOPC investigation which led to him being dismissed from the Force for using excessive force. We are pleased to report that after a lengthy appeal process, Kerry has been reinstated. The other case is that of PC Andrew Spiby, who was found guilty of common assault for deploying incapacitant spray and his Taser on a male at Derby Station last year. Again, we have lodged an appeal against this finding of guilt.
As police officers, my colleagues are all trained to use force and trained to use the equipment on their belts, including Taser. Officers attend incidents where they must make a split second decision on whether to deploy PPE and must do so in a controlled and measured way.
Imagine having to make decision knowing that you could potentially face criminal prosecution if a complaint is made and that the outcome of that will be based on the interpretation of the incident by those sitting in judgement of you.
I genuinely believe that IOPC are attempting to demonstrate their independence by targeting officers who were simply attempting to discharge their duties, upholding the law in a violent situation. Officers who made a split second decision in very challenging circumstances and in doing so face scrutiny from those that don't understand policing, have never faced an 'angry man' and would never dare put themselves within arms-length of danger to protect others.
Policing is a job like no other and officers across the entire country prove time and time again that they are prepared to deal with never-ending challenges without hesitation or consideration for their own safety. It's a very sad reflection on society and particularly on the IOPC who rightly investigate complaints against officers independently but do so without understanding or acknowledging how difficult it is for officers to make those decisions. Furthermore, it now seems that certain magistrates have the same blinkered view.
There is a world of difference between doing your job to the best of your ability with the honestly held belief that you are making the right decision in using the equipment you have available to you to and being totally out of control intending to cause physical injury to others. The two are so far apart and yet again it comes down to interpretation; but who is determining what is and isn't reasonable force. What is the officer's honestly held belief when deploying Taser? Officers cannot be judged on public perception, half-truths, CCTV, media and social media footage which does not tell the full story. This is wholly unacceptable and if this trend continues officers will fear using their PPE, violent crime will continue to increase and public safety will be at crisis point, if it's not there already.
To our members I say if you are ever on duty and find yourself having to make a split second decision where reasonable force is required and after the incident you find yourself under investigation, this Federation will support you just as we have supported PC Reynolds and will continue to support PC Spiby.
This is not this Federation making a bold statement or playing judge and jury, declaring all officers can use whatever force they want and still have our support. No. We are simply saying that this Federation will support colleagues who in challenging situations have to make decisions; sometimes life-threatening decisions, sometimes live-saving decisions. It's interesting how certain officers can be labelled heroes and others can be convicted in a court of law for simply doing the same job.
I will finish by thanking all of you in BTP for your continued excellence and professionalism in policing the railways and keeping the public safe.
Quote of the month:
"See life as it is but focus on the good bits"