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 first blog of 2020 and I would like to begin by congratulating those in policing who were recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours list. Our own Chief Constable was one of those selected so congratulations to him for being recognised for the CBE. Having spoken to Mr Crowther, he is obviously very proud to have received the CBE but recognises it as a reflection of the hard work of everyone in BTP. He is very grateful for your commitment, dedication and motivation and is flattered to have received such recognition from the Queen.
The New Year started with a bang for lots of our officers, especially many in London. You all did an excellent job on New Year's Eve keeping the infrastructure up and running while at the same time ensuring those that were celebrating were able to travel safely to and from the event.
However, as quickly as that task was completed many of you found yourselves back on duty on New Year's Day working what was an eventful, packed football schedule. Without hesitation or deliberation you got on with the task and again provided a top class policing service ensuring thousands of fans - many in drink and still celebrating the New Year - arrived at the match safely and without disturbing others. Again, an excellent job by all involved.
Nevertheless, I do have to ask, why is BTP stretching resources to breaking point? Why were officers working a busy New Year's Eve returned to work so quickly to work an even busier New Year's day?
We can all appreciate that BTP's commitments at certain time of the year are higher than in previous years. I get that the industry wants better protection for staff against assaults, especially where football fans are concerned, and I also get that the public expect much, much more from policing. However, you can't expect 200 officers to do the work of 400; a shift of five can't fill the boots of ten. If extra resources are needed then it's the Force's responsibility to get those resources. It is not the responsibility of every single frontline officer to fill every single gap and work until they drop. What protection is there for these officers?
Officers are being put at risk, not just in BTP but across the country. Attacks on officers are on the increase and the role of a police officer is much more diverse, but as another new year begins we continue to see our colleagues being stretched to the limit and filling massive gaps in resourcing levels, working excessive hours and not receiving the correct amount of rest and recuperation that they deserve.
The Single patrol strategy is one way around this particular problem but that is not the answer and nor should it be. Today's police officers work the 24/7 roster, as quickly as they finish their tour of duty, those same officers nip home, shower, sleep and are straight back in to the thick of it until they finally reach a day off. Oh, stop for a moment, sorry no those planned rest days are not now always guaranteed to be days off because they are back at work fulfilling the commitment of a Force without the right level of resources.
So, who decides what events we police? Who decides - if there are insufficient numbers - how many commitments BTP can meet?
BTP cannot constantly commit to everything and everyone while there are gaps; gaps that are being filled with new recruits and transferees. We are back to the days of robbing Peter to pay Paul and that is wholly unacceptable. Line managers need to step up and challenge what is happening, and that includes Superintendents and Chief Superintendents. Ladies and gentlemen, you know you are low on resources, you know you can't give the level of resources and commitment to the industry as promised or planned, so you have a duty to stand up and tell them so. Be open with them and look at ways at addressing the problem rather than expecting those working day in day out to fill the gaps. I genuinely believe the industry, or certain members of the industry, do not fully understand how stretched we are at times, but they won't know if we don't tell them and they will continue to want more and more.
Let's not go back to the dark days when rest days were cancelled routinely without explanation or reason. This shouldn't be the norm. If an officer has their rest day cancelled they should be informed of the change and why the change is occurring. BTP had got much better at this and officers were being engaged with and changes were accepted, once explained. But simply filling gaps and stretching resources in the absence of the correct number of officers is not acceptable and should be challenged not only by us the Federation but by those managers who have to manage the officers who are again feeling slightly disgruntled. Again, I would invite the Force to address the problem now rather than letting the rot set in. We will definitely be raising our concerns at the first National Negotiating Meeting of the year, which takes place next week.
On the subject of rosters, last month I reported that the Force was allowing Divisional Commanders and sub Divisional Commanders to look at newly designed rosters. Nonetheless there is a lot of talk regarding the 6-on 4-off roster and the position of the Force is that this particular design will not be considered as it doesn't fit BTP and the working hours of some and it creates more rest days than will be permitted (135 max).
I am now informed that some locations, squads and teams are already working a 6-on 4-off shift pattern, so I apologise if I have provided misleading information but we were not aware there were officers working this shift pattern. I don't think the COG team will be aware of this either but the point raised by some officers is that if it's good enough for some should it not be considered for others?
Well, it's a very valid point and one that I will raise again at the next NNM. I hope that 6-on 4-off will be a consideration for Divisional Commanders, as it seems to be accepted in certain locations. If I receive anything further on this I will endeavor to share. If there are any issues with future proposals then please don't hesitate to contact your local Federation Representatives.
DCC addresses Management Board meeting
This month we held our first Management Board meeting for 2020. As a reminder this is where all the elected Area Secretaries and Chairs come together to discuss national and local issues and concerns. You may recollect that DCC Hanstock was invited and he provided an update as well as taking questions.
The DCC confirmed that the Force has now agreed to match the South East allowance to that received by our Home Office colleagues which is good news for all those who are eligible. I appreciate it has been a long time coming but we got there in the end. The bid regarding free travel for officers is still with the Rail Delivery Group and discussions continue.
The Taser survey was disappointing; with only 500 officers having responded to the survey there is an acceptance that the survey wasn't the best. The force has now decided to conduct a more in-depth survey, which will be circulated shortly.
Can I encourage you all to please participate in the Taser survey? This is the best piece of kit a frontline officer can have on their belt. It will protect you; it will prevent and deter offenders from assaulting you or others and it will give a higher level of reassurance to those we serve. Yes, there are some down sides to carrying Taser, ask PC Andrew Spiby. However, I am sure Andrew will agree with me, that having Taser is important and while he has suffered at the hands of the IOPC and the criminal justice system I doubt he would hand back his Taser if given the option. Andrew's case is one in a million that will go down that route. Furthermore the more that carry it, the more some tasks can be shared across the board.
Finally, yes there is another level of training, another responsibility you take onboard but seriously, if you want to reduce the chances of being assaulted and reduce the chances of others being assaulted, then carrying Taser will assist.
The Force needs certain information to determine how much kit to invest in, rather than buying a large stock that could sit unused in storage. This survey will hopefully assist with this and in the long term it will help you. So please engage and participate in the survey; even if you don't carry and will never carry, completing the survey will help those that do want to carry.
Bilateral pension agreement
Returning to a matter I wrote about last month, the 86 affected officers will be receiving a letter regarding the Force position on the lack of a bilateral agreement and to say we are not impressed is an understatement. The offer of £250 for independent pension advice is an insult and we are genuinely shocked with their stance that there is nothing the Force can do.
We have seen the letter and we will be sharing it with our lawyer to see what if any action can be taken. We also await for an update from PFEW regarding the pension challenge and what decisions the Home Office will take. Potentially, if officers who have been moved from the final salary scheme or tapered on to the CARE scheme are returned to their original final salary scheme then they should be able to transfer pensions over as there is a bilateral agreement with the final salary schemes. The only stumbling block presently is a 5-year rule in the HO pension rules which we hoped the force would seek to get changed.
Furthermore, the letter suggests that a transfer of pensions can happen but not on a like for like basis. This is the first time we have been made aware of this and we will be enquiring as to the value RPMI may put on a HO pension scheme in comparison to a BTP scheme. This item is on the next agenda of the NNM and we will seek further clarity regarding what the future holds.
How effective is BTP's welfare provision?
By way of other updates, BTP has employed independent staff from the University of Hull to conduct a review into how the Force measures up with regards to welfare support.
Obviously, we welcome this review, but are saddened we were not asked to participate in it as promised. If you have been invited by the team to speak about welfare support please be open and share your experiences. It is important the review team records the true experiences of our officers in order to fully understand how the Force measures up.
We all know there are some very positive experiences (see the section on the staff survey) but equally we do hear some horror stories and I truly hope the review team assists BTP with improving what is already in place for the benefit of our officers and staff.
New head of PSD
We welcome the arrival of the new head of Professional Standards, Superintendent Fulton who I am informed has joined us from Surrey Police. His arrival coincides with that of the new conduct regulations regarding misconduct matters.
The regulations are due to be implemented in the Home Office next month and BTP will follow closely behind. Currently BTP Authority has not entered into any form of consultation with the Federation regarding these new regulations, nor have officers and staff received any related training, and that includes Federation Representatives.
Without going into great detail these new regulations are mainly focused on reflective practice rather than instigating misconduct proceedings. Basically, mistakes happen, and we all make them from time to time, so rather than apportioning blame, HR and line managers will be encouraged to look at ways of learning from the mistakes of officers rather than seeking a punitive measure.
We think this is very positive. The suggestion is that only the most serious of cases will end up in the hands of PSD; time will tell and as things stand we welcome the new regulations but until we all see the final draft and the training to deal with them then I'm afraid I will withhold my final judgment.
Job-related Fitness Test
Some of you may have heard that the Job-related Fitness Test (JRFT) has been suspended. This is not true, however the College of Policing (CoP) has provided guidance to all police forces that anyone who is facing UPP proceedings due to failing the JRFT should now be paused while some research is conducted by the College.
Despite the guidance being issued back in July we were not informed of this until two weeks ago. We also know the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) is in discussions regarding the future of the JRFT. So, for those who have heard the rumours circulating, let me confirm that the JRFT has not currently been stopped or suspended but the advice is that the UPP process for anyone failing the test should be paused. We will be raising this with the force next week at the NNM to obtain a position statement.
Death and Serious Injury incidents
In further news there is a new policy due with regards to Death and Serious Injury (DSI) incidents in line with a police firearms event. If you have never heard of the terms Post Incident Procedure (PIP) or Post Incident Manager (PIM) then I recommend you familiarise yourself.
The process is there to protect you but also to ensure that when there is a death or serious injury and police officers are involved in some way then best evidence is captured through a well-managed process during which you as serving officers and members of the Federation are provided with the right protection, including legal advice. So if going forward you find yourself with a DSI event and it ends up in a coroner's court or at worse a criminal court, the Force can demonstrate by applying the PIP process, a high level of transparency where the investigation is concerned, and in achieving that aim you as the officer involved will be supported appropriately.
I appreciate some will brush this off as an 'it will never happen to me' scenario but in today's climate of policing, these chances of these types of events happening and a PIP being run is more likely than not. I'm sure I don't have to point out some of the news headlines where sadly people have died whilst in contact or custody of police officers. The media have a feast when this happens apportioning blame (mainly toward the police) and its right and proper that there is transparency in any investigation. However, you are the officers who make those split second decisions with an honestly held belief they are the right decisions and without the benefit of hindsight, and it's you who will face the criticism if that decision is dissected and examined by lawyers and on social media.
No one knows how you will react when faced with those challenging situations, but we witness far too often police officers' actions being judged by those not in possession of the full facts. PIP processes will aide everyone in obtaining the full facts, including the IOPC. So, it's important we provide reassurance to the public and that we are transparent, but it's also vitally important that those involved are not simply thrown to the wolves and left out in the cold. So again, a plea from me: please make yourself aware of the PIP process. If you do find yourself in a DSI incident you do not have to engage with the PIP but it's there for the benefit of all concerned.
The less visible side of Federation work
I appreciate how often I begin this blog by saying it has been a busy month and I understand officers sniggering or mocking the suggestion that the Federation is busy. But be reassured, a lot of work goes unnoticed behind the scenes, work that perhaps only the individuals we represent can understand and appreciate.
Clearly due to confidentiality we can't publicise this work or the identities of those involved. Nonetheless there is work being conducted across the force on a daily basis by our Federation reps and your National Executives. A lawyer, either in misconduct/criminal proceedings or civil matters, assisted 82 BTP officers in 2019 at a cost of over £260,000. That's not taking into consideration the low-level misconduct cases; ill health dismissals, sickness absence and UPP cases Federation reps have assisted.
There is a suggestion that the Federation should, in measuring the effects of this work, publish the results of misconduct hearings/meetings, ill-health dismissals, UPP and those we represent who are failing the JRFT. If you have heard this rumour or suggestion I want to reassure you all that unless it is the genuine wish of our wider membership that such information is published, then this Federation will not do so.
The only person who can truly understand what it's like to be on the receiving end of a complaint, or to fail the JRFT, or to have a dip in performance managed, is the person going through it. These events are shared with a Federation representative because reps give advice, support, guidance and assistance but what they are not there for is to tell everyone else how successful (or otherwise) they have been regarding anyone's personal circumstances. Your discussion with your Federation rep is confidential; it is not for sharing nor should it be.
If there are officers who have different views then please don't hesitate to contact us and we can have a discussion about it but while I am the Chair of this Federation I will go on record and say no matter how much certain people want to measure our performance as Federation representatives I will not reveal information that could potentially identify those involved causing further upset and disharmony.
On the point of discussing matters with your Federation, especially with the National Executive officers the Treasurer Mark Marshallsay, General Secretary Darren Townsend and I intend to travel around the country during 2020 and hold workshops where you can speak with your local reps and/or a member of the Executive. Dates and venues are being looked at as we speak and will be circulated, so keep an eye out and come to speak openly with us. We're looking for your feedback, we invite you to tell us what we can do to improve the level of service we provide and also we want you to come and simply have a cuppa, a biscuit and a chat.
We hope we can provide details about services such as the Treatment Centres, Group Insurance, legal services, Post Incident Procedure, welfare support, charities/lottery and many more aspects of what we do.
Finally, we have now had sight and a summary of the most recent staff survey conducted by Durham University and the results are very interesting. We will be encouraging the force to publish the results in full, however in the meantime here is a quick update:
In 2017, 49% of the workforce engaged with the survey. Sadly only 29% engaged with the 2019 survey, nevertheless comparisons can be made.
The headlines are that the impact of hindrance stressors remain the same, whether these are new hindrances or existing hindrances is unknown. Officers feeling proud in BTP is sadly down, job satisfaction is down, and vision clarity is down. On a positive note, officers have more confidence in frontline supervision and feel better supported regarding welfare and wellbeing. Finally, you are all working much harder.
Clearly there are some "green shoots" here to applaud but before we open the champagne there are some serious concerns; officers are working harder but feel there is less job satisfaction and less pride in being part of BTP. Those of you who participated feel more engaged and motivated to provide a very high quality of service and it is very pleasing that officers feel that wellbeing support has improved, but we all need to recognise that the pride of BTP is being eroded and officers don't feel a sense of job satisfaction. For us in the Federation that's something BTP need to address and the survey results must send a very strong message.
Overall, I am disappointed with the numbers that participated and saddened to hear that feeling proud to be BTP is down on two years ago but the positives have to be acknowledged; your hard work continues and frontline supervisors are doing their part. You should all be very proud of yourselves because you are all doing an excellent job, so well done to you and thank you.
Another real positive is the improvement in wellbeing support, something this Federation and others have challenged and campaigned for and I must pay recognition to the Force for listening and making changes.
Quote of the Month:
"Don't aim for success if you want it, just do what you love and believe it will come naturally." Robert Frost