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 November 2019, with updates on what the BTP Federation National Executive is involved with on your behalf.
Firstly, it saddens me to report on the sudden and unexpected death of Police Inspector Chau See from Hammersmith BTP. He collapsed whilst at the gym and members of staff had to perform CPR. He was rushed to hospital and complications meant he was admitted to intensive care. On Monday 25 November, Inspector See lost his fight and sadly passed away with his family by his side. We add our condolences to many messages of support his family are receiving. It's very clear how loved and respected Chau was within BTP and beyond. His family, friends and colleagues are in our thoughts and prayers.
The loss of an officer affects the whole of the police family; even more so when that loss is so sudden and unexpected, and no one can imagine what Chau's family are going through. However as much as we can't lift that pain what I can say is that we are here to support Chau's family and we are here to support any officer affected by his death. Please contact your local federation rep or your line manager if you need support. Rest in peace Inspector See.
I am sure none of us needs reminding what the month of November represents for us all as police officers, especially for those who have served in the armed forces and for those of us who have lost loved ones, friends and colleagues through combat. It was very pleasing to see BTP officers out on Remembrance Sunday at the cenotaph and it was also heartwarming to see so many officers from across the force paying respect on Armistice Day. I would personally like to thank all those officers who worked, paid recognition and showed respect for all those thousands who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you.
PC Andrew Spiby
Many of you will know that PC Andrew Spiby won his appeal against his conviction for deploying his Taser on 28 May 2018 at Derby train station. Two men were arrested at the station during which PC Spiby deployed his Taser.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated this matter and assessed it amounted to a potential criminal act and the file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service who authorised charges of common assault. IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said: "This was a serious incident which was witnessed by onlookers, including several young people. Police are entitled to use force but only if it is necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances".
Following a two day trial at Birmingham Magistrates Court, PC Spiby was found guilty of common assault by the Deputy District Judge and he was sentenced to a 16-week prison sentenced suspended for one year, he was also ordered to pay £500 compensation, £775 in court cost, a £115 victim surcharge and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid community service.
With the support of Reynolds Dawson solicitors, we appealed this decision and on 7 November 2019 at Birmingham Crown Court the presiding Judge quashed the conviction and stated that, having reviewed all the evidence, PC Spiby had no case to answer. Clearly, we are very pleased with this verdict, but I do question why the matter got this far.
We hoped the IOPC would use this case as guidance when considering similar circumstances in the future, however we're informed that the IOPC is now directing that PC Spiby faces a Gross Misconduct Hearing. We await a decision being reached by the Force and the appropriate authority, who I know have been very supportive towards PC Spiby and who do not want to prolong this process and extend the level of anxiety and uncertainty he has experienced.
We cannot comment further until we know the final decision regarding future proceedings, nevertheless I can reiterate what has been said previously: It is extremely difficult to fully understand what goes through an officer's mind when they assess what's happening in front of them.
There is a world of difference between an officer acting with an honestly held belief about the threat facing them or others, and an officer deliberately and recklessly intending to harm someone. The latter is completely unacceptable, but the former is a split-second decision made with the benefit of both training and experience.
This has been an extremely difficult and stressful time for PC Spiby and others and along with the Force, we continue to support him through this process.
Adding to this particular update, we have concerns about the sentence originally handed down to PC Spiby by the courts and how it does not reflect or compare to similar sentences being dispensed by the courts when Police officers are assaulted by members of public.
We campaigned, sponsored and supported the Police Federation of England and Wales and many other emergency workers unions with the "Protect the Protectors Bill", which resulted in Parliament introducing new legislation and sentencing guidelines for anyone who assaults an emergency worker during their tour of duty.
This legislation extended the sentencing powers of the courts to a maximum of 12 months custodial sentence and at the time we suggested that this was not a sufficient deterrent that would protect emergency workers. What we are now witnessing is an increase in violence and increase in assaults against police officers; nonetheless the courts don't seem to be adhering to the new sentencing guidelines under the new legislation. Having faced justice, offenders are walking away from the courts with a pocket money-sized fine and a slapped wrist. How can PC Spiby receive a sentence such as that issued by Birmingham magistrates, but when an officer doing their duty protecting society gets assaulted, spat at, punched and kicked the offender walks out of court with a smile on their face having faced so-called justice?
The courts are not protecting emergency workers, including BTP officers, and this has to change. Being assaulted is not an occupational hazard or part of the job as some would describe. Officers come to work to make a difference, to protect society from harm and to prevent crime in our communities. They are not punch bags for the disorderly. Violent antagonists walk our streets, confident in the knowledge that they won't receive a harsh sentence for any attack against police officers, so continue to offend. How can that be right?
Emergency workers, including police officers are doing their bit, Government have done their bit recognising they need to protect the protectors, but CPS and the judiciary need now to do their bit. If violent individuals see fit to assault police officers are they not also likely to assault members of the public? The courts are there to protect all of society and they now have the legislation to act in relation to emergency workers who are attacked on a more regular basis. Why is violence on the increase? Well there are many reasons and in my opinion the lack of a deterrent for offenders is one reason why it's on the increase, until the courts act and provide the deterrent that is needed by all in society then unfortunately the increase in violence and other crime will continue.
Moving on to more local matters some of you, especially officers in CID, have become aware this month that the Force is considering a restructure of the CID under the 2021 Crime and Safeguarding Programme. The consultation commenced on 4 November 2019 and it is open until 18 December 2019. Please be reassured that no decisions have been made yet, other than to determine the need for change.
There was clearly a breakdown in communications and we, the National Officers of the Federation, were not aware of the proposal, so I apologise for initially being unable to answer questions that were asked of us. Since the announcement, Superintendent Rattan and I have spoken and in company with DCI Mick Jackson, I attended a meeting with the project team to discuss the proposal, why such a decision is being made and what that proposal means for those you serving within the department of crime investigation.
There are many different views and opinions at this stage, and it is too early for the Federation to give commentary on the proposals. Nonetheless currently this is simply a proposal and it's based on the current demand, career development and capability, service delivery, command and control and the obvious budget pressures; the latter being the most serious concern for this Federation.
What I will say is that consultation is still ongoing and open to all officers in the CID world. You should have all had an email from the project team describing what the consultation looks like and what you can do as individuals. If you haven't received the email, then please speak with your immediate line manager. The project team await your feedback and any counter proposals and suggestions, so if you have any thoughts, ideas or views please do email them; sitting silently suggests you are happy with and accepting of the new proposals.
Furthermore, you are invited to have a face-to-face meeting with line managers and HR if you have any concerns about the proposals that you need to discuss on a more personal level. So, please don't hesitate to engage with the process and the project team, they are very open to listening to your concerns and thoughts.
That brings me onto rosters. Yes, under this proposed restructure there will be potential for roster changes. Again, be assured that to date, no consultation has commenced regarding rosters. There is some background work being conducted by the team to look at various ideas but again no rosters have been agreed or decided upon. The team reassures me that once the proposed rosters are known then the minimum 30-day consultation will commence, followed by the 30-day implementation. There is an agreement that Federation representatives on divisions will be part of that consultation process on rosters.
If I receive any further updates/news I will endeavour to share them with you.
Force-wide issues of concern to you
As described previously, we have regular Management Board meetings and at the most recent meeting in September there was a discussion about the role of the Federation and that of the Force. One of the conversations focussed on the Federation's future strategy, aims and objectives. Since then each Divisional Federation Committee has identified the major concerns from their area/division and their priorities regarding the representation that is currently provided or likely to be needed in the future. It has been a very interesting debate and it has raised many topics of conversation.
The first outcome from these debates has been to write to the Force to seek a position statement on several recurring topics that we believe are having an impact on officers' wellbeing and morale. The headlines are as follows:
What is BTP's strategy to retain officers? How is recruitment looking over the next few years? What evidence does BTP have as to why officers are leaving? What are the exact numbers of officers who have left BTP in 2019 and how many have exit interviews have been conducted?
2. Officer welfare and wellbeing?
What is the current position on improving the support available to officers and staff? Why are officers experiencing issues with OH and the new provider?
There has been significant media coverage of certain Chief Constables committing to providing Taser to any officer who wishes to carry the equipment. What is BTP's position on this? What is the situation in remote areas (especially in Scotland) where there is currently a lack of secure storage space available?
What is the current position in terms of recruitment, pay parity and investment in staff development/progression?
5. Single patrol strategy
Given the continued high numbers of assaults against officers, what is BTP's position on single-crewing? Where is the Force pledge regarding officer assaults?
What is the current position on the bilateral agreement for officers who have transferred especially firearms officers who have transferred to BTP?
Currently officers across the force are seeing an increase in Rest day cancellation however many remain on the rosters designed by the DRD. It is obvious in certain areas the reason for cancelling rest days is simply down to poor planning. What is the Force position on rosters?
What is the current position on the collation of officers' Terms and Conditions?
Response from the Force
I have since spoken with the Chief Constable about these topics and he reassures me that firstly he understands the sense of feeling and how certain pressures are being felt across the entire force. Furthermore, he has assured me that he is more than willing to provide the Federation with a full detailed response to these particular points. He has also pledged to write a weekly blog himself, explaining what the Force is doing in respect of these matters. Finally, he has agreed to attend our next Federation Management Board meeting to answer any questions from those who represent members across the Force area.
We obviously welcome this positive approach and the Chief's commitment to providing clarity, and in some cases some reassurance, on the points we have raised. We believe a detailed response from the Force on all these issues could help to address the current disharmony, feelings of dissatisfaction and the current level of uncertainty, which is as beneficial to the Force as it is to the officers and I am very pleased to report that the Chief Constable agrees.
Ultimately, we are seeking replies in as much detail as possible on all these topics to inform and in some cases, reassure officers. If progress isn't visible, the natural assumption is that nothing is happening, and this means information voids are filled - unhelpfully - with rumour and speculation.
We believe it is this sort of speculation that is having a detrimental impact on BTP and those loyal officers who are staying with the Force, but who are now suffering the shortage of resources, the continuing circulation of rumours and a feeling of being under-valued.
I now look forward to receiving a detailed response as promised and the Chief Constable's weekly blog. In next month's Federation blog I will share the response from the Force with you all and hopefully between us we can further address some of your pressing concerns.
Gathering the views of members
Also following our Management Board meeting, Darren Townsend and I are travelling around the country to meet with our Federation committees to get a more detailed and true sense of feeling from those that work on the frontline, but also to discuss the future Federation strategy in more detail with those who are not only Federation reps but are also full time operational police officers. So far, we have visited Scotland and Newcastle and we have visits planned for London, Bristol and Liverpool. Once we have captured more detail from those that represent you, I will again report back on what the future holds.
What I want to reassure everyone is that we the BTP Federation are constantly looking inwards and reflecting on what we do for our members and how we can improve on what we do. I am sure there are many who have ideas and thoughts on how the Federation can do better and sensible ideas are very much welcomed, hence our visits around the Force committees, which will also result in Divisional 'roadshows' in 2020.
Currently every officer who is a member of the Federation can, at the time of the Federation elections, elect peers who they wish to be a Fed rep on their Division, to represent those that they work with. These same representatives not only represent officers individually but can ask questions of the National Federation office/officers and if they so wish they can propose, suggest and request change where change is needed. Every year at our annual conference all those elected delegates are then invited to debate any proposed changes that are being put forward by those that you have elected and then vote on the proposals (Motions).
So as individuals and also members of the Federation, if you have any sensible ideas for change then please speak with your local reps and invite them to submit a motion to bring about that change and in March next year at our annual conference we will openly discuss, debate and decide on any changes that are proposed. Each year we publish any motions submitted in our conference brochure, along with information who submitted and seconds the motions. We will ensure that we publish the outcome of those debates so you, the members, are aware of not only what we are discussing/debating but the outcome of those debates.
Organisational Support Modernisation
Moving on to other changes being discussed, one proposal relates to Organisational Support Modernisation under the 2021 umbrella. This mainly relates to our Human Resources, Finance and Occupational Health. The services provided by Organisational Support departments are highly valued and are the backbone of any organisation, however these proposals highlight that BTP needs to make changes as follows:
- We need to save money - budgets and posts have continued to reduce but so far there has been no change to the processes or expectations placed upon us.
- We need to save time - there are too many transactional and low-level support activities that don't add value and cause duplication.
- We need to modernize - to exploit technology enablers including self-service and automation to enable agile working to empower staff and managers.
- We need to be more strategic - spending our time where our skills are most valuable and proactively planning to spend less time reacting.
- We want to help you develop - allowing you to maximize the use of your skills and expertise and create opportunities for yourselves.
Now I don't intend to go through this in great detail because the detail can be obtained through the force intranet. Nevertheless, I raise this point because if the proposals do land then there will be an impact on you, the frontline officers. There will be a reliance on self-service especially around pay, expenses and leave, which we as a Federation welcome, but additionally technology will replace certain police staff roles and our concerns is that the days of speaking with a HR representative locally to get answers to your questions, or seeking advice over the telephone and getting a friendly voice offering reassurance, advice and guidance will be gone.
I for one understand we need to move with the times and modernise, but from personal experience and 29 years in policing I know these changes will create problems. The personal touch, knowledge and experience of a local HR is priceless and without it there is the potential for officers to quickly lose confidence and trust, and I am sure we all know any good relationship is built on trust. We also suspect this burden will land on our frontline supervisors who, to be frank, are under enough pressure without adding to their already busy workload. What we don't need is a repeat of the NICHE and if there are changes to come then let's hope that BTP has learnt from previous mistakes and those changes are not rushed and that frontline officers understand the changes in full rather than receiving information piecemeal.
Again, it is early days and no final decisions have been made but I do worry about this particular plan, so we will keep a close eye on what the future looks like if the proposals are implemented.
Terms and conditions
Early next month we have another meeting with British Transport Police Authority to discuss the newly drafted compendium of rules and regulations; basically, BTP officers' terms and conditions. This has been an ongoing saga for many years, but finally there is light at the end of a very long tunnel and hopefully come the New Year you will all see the publication of all your T&Cs so you know exactly what you are and are not entitled to. Hopefully we can capture the main points and develop an easy guide to your rights.
Finally, its very pleasing to hear that officers are now receiving the new issue uniform jackets that the Force has purchased. It's also very encouraging to hear some very positive remarks regarding the quality and the benefits of this particular item of uniform. We are aware there are some locations/officers who have not yet received the jackets but are assured they are on their way.
Quote of the Month:
"In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." Robert Ingersoll
Theodore RooseveltNigel Goodband