Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Colleagues, in extraordinary times I shall attempt to provide you with an update with regards to your Federation, but I understand what I say will possibly pale into insignificance compared to what's happening in the world - and our own country - currently.
You know, Chief officers and staff know, the public knows, and Ministers suggest they know that the emergency services, including BTP, are facing their greatest ever challenge in modern times.
On every occasion when there has been a crisis, whenever there has been a major incident, or an attack on society by extremists, you and all your colleagues in policing have tackled the challenge face on without fear or favour. This, however, is a challenge like no other. There is a risk to us all and that creates a serious level of uncertainty, anxiety, worry and the feeling of being vulnerable.
This is exactly why in this particular scenario we need to stand together. We need to support each other and our families, and we definitely need to watch out for each other. Working, supporting and standing together will make us stronger and ensure that the majority of us will see an end to this chaos.
As most of you will know we had to postpone our annual conference in Cardiff during which we would have paid recognition to some excellent work by our frontline colleagues at our Awards of Excellence. It is our intention that ceremony will still proceed sometime this year.
At conference our theme was going to be 'Safety Matters'. I would have addressed the Rail Minister Mr Chris Heaton-Harris MP, the BTP Authority and the Chief Constable regarding assaults against police officers, the issuing and training of Taser, private health care, welfare and wellbeing, the IOPC, county lines and CT funding. Hopefully I will still get an opportunity to address these issues/concerns with the Minister later in the year.
What we did receive from the Minister was a video message to be played to conference delegates. This should shortly be available to view via the Force intranet, but needless to say it was a positive message full of praise for your work and commitment to duty. It was filmed prior to the full extent of the Covid-19 situation being known so the Minister has asked us to covey that he remains very grateful to everyone at the BTP for their ongoing hard work during the current crisis.
What is evidenced by this message is how respected we are as a police force and we should take real satisfaction from the fact that your hard work is being acknowledged and recognised within Government.
At our conference we have five-yearly elections for Executive positions within the Federation; this year we were due to elect our national General Secretary. Due to the postponement of the conference we have conducted an electronic ballot amongst the 40 delegates that you have voted to be your representatives. As a result of that ballot I am very pleased to report that Mark Marshallsay has been duly elected as the new General Secretary for BTP Federation. I am sure many of you will join me in congratulating him on his appointment and I look forward to working with him.
Mark was previously our national Treasurer/Deputy General Secretary, so we are now holding a similar ballot to fill that role. Hopefully we will be able to announce Mark's successor later this week. I would like to wish all four nominees the very best of luck.
Whilst paying recognition it is only right and proper I acknowledge the excellent job done by Darren Townsend, the outgoing General Secretary. I and many others appreciate everything Darren did for this Federation over the last five years: the changes he introduced, the desire he displayed to support change, and his work to create a more transparent and more accountable Federation.
I enjoyed my time working with Darren. We worked well on many aspects of Federation duties, from introducing a new constition, reconfiguring and negotiating a new machinery of negotiation and designing new training packages, to giving evidence in the Scottish Parliament regarding integration.
I am sure you will all join me in wishing Darren and his family all the very best for the future, whatever that future holds and to reassure him he will always be welcome back in the fold of the Federation.
As many of you will know, Mark Marshallsay and I have been heavily involved with Gold and Silver command meetings with regards to Covid-19. These meetings happen twice daily: two Gold and two Silver meetings. One regular complaint that we hear so often in BTP is about internal comms and how certain messages don't reach the frontline and when they do the lines are so blurred that you don't understand what is happening.
I am very pleased to report that BTP has recruited a new member of police staff to deal solely with internal communications. If ever we needed communications to be clear and precise, it is now. Laura Jamieson who is the new Head of Internal Comms has hit the ground running and I think we can app appreciate what a difficult job she will have changing the culture, the systems and the style of communications.
In a very short time Laura has already worked with the Force to introduce some important changes, including a Frequently Asked Questions forum which is updated daily. Twice weekly the Chief Constable hosts a Line Managers conference call to respond to questions. Also, with the assistance of the IT department every officer now has remote access to the Force Information Portal. You no longer have to sit at a desktop to gain access; you can use a Force-issue device and hopefully we will soon be able to use personal devices too. You should have all been briefed with regards to access to the Employee Information Portal. If not and you currently have a Force device follow this link and log in as normal, ensuring you remove the PNN part of the email address.
These are just a couple of changes that will assist you in obtaining faster and more detailed information. I am also very pleased that Laura is linking in with our own PR/Media advisor which will assist everyone.
Furthermore, to complement our involvement at the Gold and Silver command meetings I issue a daily summary to every Federation representative, so they know what I know. If you have any questions, queries or concerns please don't hesitate to contact your local representative. Line Managers are also receiving regular briefings so again they should be able to answer many of your queries. If they can't, then please ask your local reps to contact me so I can ask the question at the next Silver/Gold meeting.
I would like to add, that during this difficult time in all our lives, BTP's command team has also been working very long hours, demonstrating throughout that your welfare and your wellbeing are at the forefront of their decisions. Clearly a lot of decisions are governed by Westminster, Public Health England and National Police Chiefs Council. Nonetheless every query that I have presented to the Force has been addressed without hesitation, debate or refusal and I for one have been very impressed with the hard work, professionalism and dedication to duty from everyone involved.
The Force knows that Personal Protective Equipment is the number one concern of our frontline officers and this is not just a BTP problem, this is a national problem and one that has to prioritise the NHS first and foremost. Again, I am very pleased to report that supplies have landed, and certain departments will now take possession of these supplies. Just a word of warning, when you get possession don't suddenly think the instruction is to wear mask and gloves at all times. That is not the instruction or the advice. If you follow the social distancing advice, masks and gloves should not have to be worn unless you are dealing with someone who you know, or suspect has COVID-19, and you're having to get close and detain them.
The Government is expected to update its guidance for health workers on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) within the next couple of days. At present, health authorities say equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns should only be used if patients have suspected symptoms or have been diagnosed with coronavirus. In the meantime, please continue to use PPE wisely and in accordance with national guidance.
You will also know there is now new legislation giving police officers powers to engage, explain, encourage, and enforce the message to stay at home unless it there is reasonable excuse and it is essential. Essential shopping supplies, essential medication or essential work. Furthermore, you can exercise once a day, you can attend court if you have a legal obligation, you can leave the house if caring for vulnerable people or to attend a funeral. You are therefore tasked with policing these new regulations and that obviously will concern many especially in the absence of PPE. One concern we have regarding these regulations is that it could attract further complaints and create hostility between some members of society and policing.
You are all very professional and you know the type of people who won't follow the Government guidance, advice or instructions. Certain parts of society will rebel, certain parts don't like authority and it would be foolish for me to advise on how you should deal with these types of people; you know better than me. Nevertheless, what I will say is if there are complaints received, be assured you will have the full backing of the Federation.
However, a personal plea from me to you is please, please think safety first, protect yourself and your colleagues before dealing with rebellious fools who don't care for their safety or the safety of others. You are there to preserve life, protect society from harm and threat and remember you are an important part of society. As stated recently by the Home Secretary you are the glue that keeps society together.
I know you will all do an excellent job, as you do day in day out. As stated previously if you haven't got the right kit to deal with cases of COVID-19 or people rebelling and who are spitting at officers as reported recently then call upon those that do have the right kit and keep yourself safe.
There are suggestions that officers should or will request forms of identity to determine who are key workers or not. Can I clarify for all that you have no power to request identification from anyone going about their normal business. Under these regulations there is no power to inspect or request identification. This is not an instruction from BTP command team, and it is a practice that should not be happening. If anyone is instructing you to do such then please question the person who has given that instruction.
For those that have been infected, we wish you a speedy and full recovery. Data protection rules means the Force can't inform us of your condition unless they have your permission to do so. Line Managers should ask this question of you during welfare calls, or you can contact us directly, especially if you have very little support around you and need our help.
I will sign off with a big thank you to you all for doing - yet again - an excellent job. You should be very proud; your family and friends are proud of you, most of society are very proud of you and we the BTP Federation are certainly very proud to represent you. Remember, strength and solidarity in the weeks and months ahead.
Quote of the Month:
"Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion."