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 your monthly blog for October 2019, with updates on what the BTP Federation National Executive is involved with on your behalf.
Firstly, I had the great privilege of attending the National Police Memorial Day (NPMD) in Glasgow at the end of September. This is an annual event to pay remembrance to officers across the UK - and sometimes colleagues abroad - who have died whilst on duty serving their communities.
This year ACC Charlie Doyle joined us at the memorial service and what a service it was. It really brings home the sacrifice that all police officers make when they walk in to work, not knowing what they may face. The service is open to all so if you would like to take part next year or in the future, please keep an eye on the NPMD website as registrations will open soon. It's a fantastic charity we are very proud to support.
In the last month I also had the honour of representing BTP at the funeral of PC Andrew Harper from Thames Valley Police who was sadly killed in the line of duty in August of this year. The funeral was extremely poignant. While I didn't know PC Harper personally, I felt very privileged to be able to join colleagues from forces across the country, including our own Chief Constable, to show our support and offer our condolences to PC's Harper's family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace.
Joint Central Committee meeting
Moving on to more routine business, at the start of the month I attended the Joint Central Committee (JCC) meeting with the Chief Constable, Superintendents Association and members of TSSA. The first update we received was about the recent Home Office announcement of funding for an additional 20,000 new recruits through England and Wales. BTP has not been allocated any of this funding but we were told the Home Secretary had announced £20 million to tackle County Lines drug networks, including recruiting more specialist caseworkers to deal with victims groomed into gangs.
This package will be spent on expanding the National County Lines Coordination Centre and setting up a dedicated unit within British Transport Police. This will result in the deployment of visible and undercover officers at railway stations. These are still early days, so no final decisions have been made, but it's a very positive step, especially the recognition of the excellent work BTP does with regards to County Lines.
We have also heard of the £10 million uplift in respect of the issuing of Taser to frontline police officers. BTP is awaiting clarity from the NPCC about whether it is included in that funding.
Many will be also aware that BTP2021 work is still in progress and negotiations are ongoing, especially with the BTP Authority regarding the £30 million efficiencies target. It's very reassuring to hear from the Chief Constable that the Force will not be reducing front line resources to achieve these efficiencies, but they will have to look at other saving opportunities to achieve the aim. Nonetheless, I am sure many of you are aware that this Federation opposes any suggestion of saving money, finding efficiencies or tightening the purse strings in the current climate of policing because regardless of where those savings are found, it will impact on frontline officers. Whilst the trend across the country is to invest in policing it still astounds me that BTP wishes to buck that trend and look at ways of saving money.
In addition to this we still have the debate regarding the 160 TFL officers. TFL has now ceased funding these officers in what was an enhanced policing service agreement and the Chief Constable and the Authority continue to negotiate a way forward. However, if TFL are proposing to now use this same funding, as has been suggested, to employ additional security guards rather than police officers then I would suggest they are playing dangerously with passenger and staff safety.
Additional security measures and security staff compliment policing, but cannot replace it, especially in the current climate and in the case of dealing with fatalities. This Federation would have some serious questions to ask of DFT, the Major of London and TFL. To date, no decisions have been made and I hope that any such suggestion is quickly dismissed. We now wait for clarity from TFL and the Force as to how this particular debate will be resolved.
We also received an update at the JCC regarding the staff survey that was launched on 7 October. If you haven't completed it, please do. If we want to support and encourage change we all need to participate in the survey and provide views and suggestions, being honest about what works as well as what doesn't. The survey closes tomorrow (1 November).
One positive message that came out of the JCC meeting was that of encouraging managers and others to treat each other like adults and trust everyone to work in a more modern way. Some of that will come in the form of claiming of expenses without needing authority from a line manager, and automating annual leave requests, shift changes and swaps in the roster.
We did raise several concerns with the Chief Constable starting with rosters and the practice of cancelled rest days creeping back in. The Chief has stated that he will not go back to the days where there were 500 or more rosters throughout the Force. Nevertheless, he will look at any proposals that Divisions or sub-Divisions wish to submit for consideration taking into account local issues, crime trends and resourcing levels.
We also enquired about the results of the wellbeing/trauma support study. We are told that the independent expert appointment is going through the procurement process and hopefully we will soon have an expert on board to assess how BTP delivers wellbeing and trauma support and what if anything can we do better. Once I have any further updates I will endeavor to share the news.
The other topics discussed were financial i.e. South East allowance, pensions, pensions for temporary ranks and the pay structure especially for new recruits and where our new student officers join the pay spine. These topics were taken away as actions requiring further work so we will share any updates we receive.
Our General Secretary, Darren Townsend, met with Superintendent Chris Casey and Sgt Nick Lowe from the Digital Policing team this month to get an update on their work. The first thing to mention is that the current - very challenging - IT issues are well recognised. Supt Casey confirmed recent problems have been caused by ageing IT that has been/is being replaced and communications have been circulated which explains this, so please take the time to read them.
We were updated on the roll-out of tools such as iPatrol, ContolWorks and mobile fingerprinting as well as new apps being added to devices, following the success of apps such as What 3 Words. The most encouraging aspect of all of this (aside from it freeing up more of your time) is how much testing is being done with frontline BTP officers).
The development of new technology must be done with the people who are going to use it, not for them. It was great to see how feedback and suggestions are gathered from 'test users' and help to shape the Digital Policing project.
Federation Management Board meeting
This meeting is one of three opportunities during the year where the Chairs and Secretaries from each division get together to discuss matters affecting you. During the September meeting concerns were raised about retention and recruitment, officer wellbeing and welfare, the issuing of Taser, current situation in Scotland, single patrol strategy, rosters and cancelled rest days, pensions and BTP's T&Cs compendium.
I have since written to DCC Hanstock asking for a position statement from the Force on each of these areas of concern. I am reassured Mr Hanstock will provide me with current information on each and it's my intention to report on each in month's blog.
Federation Awards of Excellence
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the Federation Awards of Excellence. We have received some fantastic nominations from across the force area, which only goes to remind us all what an excellent job you all do day in day out, thank you.
In the last week, a panel of officers from across the country met to discuss the nominations and decide on the winners who will attend the awards evening in March in Cardiff. It was a lively discussion and all of the nominees deserve an award; alas, we have to choose seven. The winners will be notified over the next couple of weeks.
Police Treatment Centres
I recently had a meeting with the Force regarding the attendance of officers at the Police Treatment Centres in Harrogate and Auchterarder, and Flint House in Goring. There is some confusion about when officers can attend and what is expected of them if they do, so for clarity: To attend any Police Treatment Centre you must sign up as a member through the Federation. All the forms you need can be found here.
As a member wishing to attend a centre you must firstly obtain advice from a medical practitioner who will complete the application form confirming that a visit will be of medical benefit. Once you have that advice you must complete an application in full and submit it to the Federation so an appointment with the PTC can be arranged. Once it is confirmed that you are a member you will receive an appointment to have a telephone consultation with a nurse from the centre who will talk through your particular case. They will then determine if you should attend, when you can attend and how long your treatment will last. Once you have this information you should then inform your line managers and/or Occupational Health.
Attending a treatment centre is classed as a duty commitment. If you are on sickness absence, time spent at the centre remains classed as sickness absence. If you are on Temporary Duty Restrictions or full duties and you attend the centre, then your roster should be altered by DMS to Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. You are not required to use any annual leave, TOIL or RDIL to attend the centres. However, if you do attend, you cannot simply show up for 3 or 4 days and go home early. Your place at the centre is for a minimum of 5 working days and you must report for the days allocated unless authorised by officials at the treatment centre or your line managers.
Remember, all places at the treatment centres are valuable and there are many officers needing the crucial treatment they provide, so please make the most of the opportunity but more importantly, make sure you follow due process. If you don't you may miss out.
I hope this clarifies any concerns or uncertainty regarding officers' attendance. If you have any further questions or queries please don't hesitate to call your Federation rep.
Also this month, the Federation ran a week long course in Liverpool for newly elected federation representatives in company with CNC Federation and Gibraltar Police Federation. We now have 6 new representatives trained and ready to support colleagues in misconduct and performance related matters. Our congratulations go to B Division officers Dean Percival, Dan Coppin, and Steve Forrest and Dave Bentley, Jamie Baker and Mark Dickens from C Division. Please don't hesitate to contact them if you ever require assistance.
I am delighted to report that Carol Peters, a Federation Representative from Pennine West, is assisting BTP in formulating its Menopause Policy. This follows on from Carol's work with the College of Policing, which produced "The Management of Menopause Transition in the Police Service". It is vital the wellbeing of our female members is taken care of through what can be a stressful and debilitating time in their lives. Carol has also created a WhatsApp group to assist any officer who maybe requiring advice and support for themselves, a colleague or a loved one. If anyone wishing to join the group or requiring assistance or advice please do not hesitate to contact Carol Peters or your local Federation Representative who will signpost you to the right people.
This is one of many strands of wellbeing support work the Federation is supporting the Force with. Others include reasonable adjustment for disabled officers and the draft design of workplace adjustment passports, flexible working including for officers who have caring responsibilities, and part-time working.
There is still a lot of work to finalise but it's reassuring that the Force is listening to your concerns and looking at ways to improve on officer and staff wellbeing.
Quote of the Month:
"See life as it is, but focus on the good bits"