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 this month's blog. I will start by offering our heartfelt condolences to DC John Coker's family. John's wife Annie and sons Dennis, Jerome and Jayden who have sadly lost their father, husband and friend are in our thoughts and prayers every day.
There are so many who knew, and respected John and I can only imagine the impact his passing will have on so many people. We cannot conceive how difficult it is for all of John's family and friends just now. Current circumstances may prevent us all from showing John our full respect in the traditional way but that certainly doesn't diminish our feelings.
John was a hardworking, committed, and dedicated police officer who was admired by many. He will be missed but never forgotten. Once this pandemic is over, we will ensure the lives of officers lost during this crisis are remembered in an appropriate manner.
I would also like to pay recognition and thanks to T/DI Karina Ghersinich who has been the liaison officer between John's family and the Force. Her support and professionalism have been over and above the call of duty and I know everyone has appreciated Karina's support. Also, I would like to thank Sarah Meek, who worked with John and kindly set up a JustGiving page for John's family. If you haven't donated and would like to, the link is above.
I hope many of you will have also seen the Chief's message regarding the passing of DC Coker and I can only echo his sentiments, especially with regards to the welfare of those officers who knew and worked with John or any officer affected by John's death. Please don't suffer in silence, speak to someone and take the support that is on offer. If you are unsure where to turn please contact your local Federation representative who will offer you support, guidance and advice.
Finally, if you have read the message from the Chief you will have seen he has generously donated £4,000 to the Federation Welfare Fund. The Fund provides loans and grants to support officers who are experiencing hardship. Applications to the Welfare Fund are made using this form. Once you have completed it, submit it to your local Federation representative so it can be considered by the Welfare Committee. There is more information on the fund available here.
I have responded to the Chief Constable thanking him and The Drapers Company for their generous donation. We all know this virus does not discriminate and sadly our officers will be affected in various ways, either by knowing someone who has tragically succumbed to COVID-19, experiencing symptoms themselves or by witnessing the impact of the virus on others, especially those that we police. This donation will go a long way in supporting our officers who need it through the provision of welfare support, financial assistance or speaking with someone professionally.
Praise for BTP
Talking of recognition and praise I hope you have all seen the letter from the Secretary of State for Transport who shares his appreciation for the excellent work of all in BTP during this national crisis. BTP was also mentioned by the Home Secretary in a televised Government COVID-19 briefing at the weekend, where again your hard work and dedication to duty was recognised by those in Government.
These messages of recognition are as a result of your hard work. We all know we are working in extraordinary times and our officers and staff have once again shown their absolute dedication to protecting others. Genuinely, I am in awe of all of our colleagues who continue to turn out for duty, without fear or favour and they do so in very uncertain environment.
I would like to think that, by now, you all know I am not shy in coming forward and challenging the Force when and where there needs to be a challenge. Well, I believe it is just as important and only right and proper that we also pay recognition where and when it is due.
To compliment everything you are doing on the frontline, I am pleased to report that the Chief Officer Group and many many more behind the scenes are working tirelessly to keep the Force functioning, to ensure you have what you need to get the job done and to provide the correct and proportionate guidance and advice.
There hasn't been an occasion over the last four or five weeks where concerns we, the Federation, have raised have been dismissed. Yes, not everything is agreed upon, but we are having healthy, productive and professional dialog daily during this crisis and I for one appreciate what the Force is doing to look after the welfare and wellbeing of our officers and staff.
Yes, I am sure some may have examples where that may not have occurred and we are not always going to get it right first time round, nevertheless if you do have any examples then please let us know and we will address it with the Force so attempts can be made to put it right.
While on the subject of welfare and wellbeing, you should all now have sufficient PPE and so far, we are not receiving any reports to the contrary. Again, this has been down to some excellent work by our support staff and the coordination and distribution from CI Tara Doyle and her team. Again, a big thank you to all involved.
You should also now be able to replace any items of PPE through iPatrol on your hand-held device. If you are struggling then please contact your line manager; don't wait until it's too late. The PPE guidance changes regularly as more is known and understood of this virus. Please keep referring to the force microsite for the most up to date information regarding PPE and other COVID-19 guidance.
There is now new guidance regarding attending a fatality and the level of PPE equipment required in accordance with new guidelines and advice. Furthermore, this guidance is not just for the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it will be for all future fatalities. There will be a number of officers who will be trained in fitting the specialist level of PPE across the entire force and the new policy will be circulated this week. Again, refer to the microsite for the most recent update. A further 100 fatality kits have now been produced by the Force to be circulated nationally. These kits will have the specialist items of PPE inside them so please use them wisely.
The testing for COVID-19 is now open to all keyworkers. You can book a test on the Government website with a self-referral but you should know that BTP can also book you a test and being a police officer/staff, you will get priority. Therefore it is recommended that anyone with symptoms who wants a test should book it through BTP. Why?
Firstly, to have the test you or someone in your household MUST be displaying symptoms. This is not a test for all, it is purely for those with symptoms. Furthermore, if you have been in work, BTP needs to know who you have had contact with so those officers/staff can also be tested. Finally, informing BTP means they can support you through the process, in various ways rather than you isolating with no support, no one to talk to and no one to explain what, if anything, you should do when the results come back. There is a policy on testing so again, visit the Force microsite and read it if you're in any doubt.
National Negotiating Meeting
Now moving on to some normal business, this month we had our quartley National Negotiating Meeting. On the agenda first and foremost was the ongoing discussion regarding your terms and conditions and the compendium of rules. This continues to be debated and having received legal advice we now have no alternative than to declare a failure to agree with the Force position and refer the matter to BTP Authority and or an independent body from DFT. Without going into all the details BTP still remain with the position that you only have nine contractual terms and conditions and we obviously dispute that. We now await the next stage of the process which is Force conference.
Also, on the agenda was the paper submitted by BTP Federation requesting an increase in your meal allowance. This remains under review and a decision will be reached in August 2020. We also await a decision from COG regarding the on-call Post Incident Procedure for Federation representation if ever you are involved in a Death or Serious Incident (DSI).
As a reminder if you do find yourself in a DSI event and the post incident procedure is established, please contact your Federation at the earliest opportunity. Do not delay and begin providing accounts without the correct advice and guidance; remember, as a Federation member in a PIP process you are entitled to a qualified lawyer regardless of what anyone may tell you. This is College of Policing guidance nationally, not just a BTP process, so it is very important to follow the guidance.
Finally, the on-going concerns regarding the BTP bilateral pension agreement continues. The Force is still unsure what decisions the Home Office will make regarding the recent direction of the courts. I have asked whether BTP will consider if officers who were tapered on to a CARE scheme in the Home Office now transferred into BTP can be considered for a final salary scheme and obviously that is a matter for the pension provider to decide upon. We again await an update. If you have any pension concerns the Force now has a SPOC for all pension matters and that is Emma Norman. Please don't hesitate to contact Emma with any of your questions, queries or concerns.
On 27 April, the Government produced a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary on BTP's ability to minimise disruption to the rail network. It recognises certain ways that we can improve but it also celebrates good practices and recommends that the rail industry and BTP work together even more closely and better understand each other's wider priorities. Again, you all should be proud of what you achieve day in day out. This Force must be the most scrutinised in the country and still you continue to rock up and get the job done. Well done! If you are interested in the report you can read it here.
You may be aware that Peter Kingham has been elected as the new national Treasurer and assistant General Secretary for the Federation. Peter starts his new role this week and we look forward to working with him. Many in London will know Pete; he has nearly 30 years experience in BTP and has been assisting colleagues as a Federation rep for the last 8 years. Clearly he is entering into a new role, working with new people, in a role that will bring new challenges but I am sure he will serve you and this Federation to the best of his abilities and I personally congratulate him on being elected.
I would like to show our our appreciation to our Special Constabulary. They, like many, have risen to the challenge and have been on the frontline supporting our colleagues and BTP. You should all be very proud of your dedication to duty as volunteers and I and all in the BTP Federation would like to say a very big thank you for your continued support and determination to help others.
May I wish you all well. Stay safe and look out for each other.
Quote of the Month:
"Tough times don't last. Tough people do"
Robert H. Schuller