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 blog for June 2020. I would like to start by offering our thoughts and prayers to those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack in Reading this month. Yet again we witness the callous murder of innocent people simply sitting in a park enjoying their day of rest.
Once again, we witness police officers and other emergency service workers running towards danger and we observe the courageous actions of our colleagues in preventing further deaths by detaining and arresting the suspected offender. For legal reasons I cannot comment further on this incident, but we are thinking of those affected and our gratitude is with those who responded.
Whilst on that point of gratitude, I join the majority of law-abiding people in saying how shocked and disgusted I am at the behavior of certain individuals over the last couple of weeks.
Only last month we were all showing our appreciation for the NHS. We came out of our homes and places of work every Thursday evening to pay recognition keyworkers on the frontline who were keeping the country going, including policing.
We were all talking about mental health and wellbeing and being kind to each other, ensuring our neighbours were safe and well, ensuring our families were protected from this killer virus and constantly keeping in contact with our loved ones through social media or other electronic methods.
Yes, we understand that some people have been anxious, some frustrated and others worried about what the future holds, however not many of us would have expected what has taken place over the last two weeks or more.
What happened in America was totally gut wrenching, deplorable and repulsive. Any act similar to that witnessed in the US must never be condoned or tolerated and justice should ensure the offenders are suitably punished.
Nonetheless, none of this gives reason or authority for the behavior of a small minority who have acted appallingly. I want to reassure every reader of this blog that the BTP Federation and I stand against racism and we fully appreciate the strength of feeling amongst our communities. We also believe that people should have the right to peaceful protest and to openly voice their concerns and views.
As a Federation we know the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion. We understand and promote that for those we represent and for the communities we police. We all have the responsibility to do the right thing and we take that responsibility seriously. I believe this is echoed throughout policing, throughout the country and more importantly throughout the rank and file that patrol our streets, villages, town and cities.
It is totally unacceptable that a small minority of society suddenly see fit to attack policing and assault police officers. As stated previously we all have a responsibility to do the right thing and I suspect many reading this blog know the difference between right and wrong.
Racism is wrong, but what is also wrong is peaceful protestors being attacked by hooligans, thugs and bullies who have nothing better to do than attempt to stir up hatred. These same individuals also parade openly under the guise of peaceful protest to attack those officers standing between good and evil, officers who are being turned upon and attacked like animals. I have been sickened by the images that I have seen on TV and I am even further saddened to witness the likes of Amazon advertising merchandise that perpetuates negativity against the police.
The police must deal with those who break the law, regardless. We have taken an oath to protect and serve but what we haven't agreed to becoming the target of hatred and punch bags for thugs and criminals. The only outcome of this type of action is nothing more than increased tension and hatred that impacts on our communities, our families, our loved ones and all.
Let's all take time to reflect on what has happened and address concerns, thoughts and ideas in a peaceful and mature way, in a respectful way that will promote change. Violence has never resolved anything; it just results in more injuries and sadly on many occasions someone's death. Let's not allow this country to reach that point, let's all get back on the page where we care for each other, we look out for each other and we respect each other no matter what our background, culture or identity.
We are one and we have to remain stronger together and combat racism, hatred for others, hate crime as a whole and stamp out criminals who see fit in destroying property and being violent towards others, including police officers.
National Negotiating Meeting
This month we have had a National Negotiation Meeting (NNM) with the Force.
As a result of this, 86 officers who have transferred from Home Office forces in to BTP over the last 5 years should now be receiving correspondence regarding the National Pension challenge being supported by PFEW.
BTP and BTP Federation are not involved in the challenge, as it does not relate to BTP officers' pensions. BTP officers were not tapered from a final salary into a career average salary pension scheme. BTP Federation at the time negotiated, with the support of the Chief Constable, that BTP officers remain on a final salary and only new joiners starting from 2015 would start on a CARE scheme.
GDPR/data protection means we don't know who the 86 officers are, and BTP cannot share that information with us. So, we're sharing updates from PFEW on our Facebook page and have asked that BTP shares the same with the affected officers.
The challenge cannot happen until the Home Office has concluded and decided the remedy for the Home Office pension scheme, but once we know the outcome we can assist further.
Movement of officers and expenses and allowances policies
Also, at the NNM we were invited to consult over proposed changes to the Movement of Officers policy and the Expenses and Allowances policy. We believe, with legal support, that this falls into the debate regarding your contractual terms and conditions.
We have, as many of you know, asked for one document similar to Police Regulations that identifies, defines and describes exactly your contractual conditions of service. After three years of negotiation we have now had to send the matter to BTPA as we and BTP have reached a failure to agree position. BTP states you have only nine contractual terms and condition and we the Federation challenge that. Our view is that all pay and benefits are contractual and therefore should not be recorded in policy (that changes with the weather) but in a document that is only amended following negotiation and with the agreement of the authority and staff associations.
We have therefore declined any offer of changing the Mmovement of Officers and the Expenses and Allowances policy until such time as we have an agreed position regarding your contractual conditions of service. We now wait to attend what is called 'Force Conference' where hopefully a commonsense approach will be adopted.
We also submitted to the Force a further paper regarding the on-call process for Post Incident Procedure (PIP). This occurs in the event of a firearms incident or a death and serious injury (DSI) whilst in police contact. There will be an investigation into that incident and officers are expected to provide accounts as witnesses. This is becoming a more regular occurrence and officers are entitled in any PIP process to have a Federation representative and a lawyer even though they are dealt with as a witness.
This process sits outside the normal misconduct/performance regulations or criminal investigations. The Force seems to be supportive of the proposed paper we have submitted and hopefully if such an incident does occur the on-call Federation representative will be contacted immediately, as will a lawyer to assist you with the proceedings that then follow a DSI.
Capability and reasonable adjustments policy
Finally, we discussed the new capability and reasonable adjustments policy. This has now been agreed by all parties and we are waiting for the Force to introduce it. Once it is in place we have requested that any officer currently being dealt with under ill health procedures should be placed under the new capability and reasonable adjustment policy. This was agreed by the Force.
Conduct and performance regulations
We have now received a copy of the new Conduct and Performance Regulations 2020. The Home Office forces are already working with the new regulations and we welcome them as the new ethos is about learning from mistakes, rather than the old-fashioned blame culture.
The idea is that most minor matters will be dealt with following an assessment more locally rather than by PSD. Any complaints received that are deemed to be minor will then be addressed using a reflective review process, where officers reflect on their mistakes, learn from the them and reduce the likelihood of repeating the mistake.
Only the more serious breaches of professional standards should go to an investigation through PSD or IOPC. If you do find yourself under investigation and facing a panel then the sanctions open to the panel have also now changed. The biggest change is the reintroduction of reduction in rank. For clarity this does not mean that there are different sanctions for ranking officers. For example, if a PC/DC is out with a PS/DS and both get drunk and act inappropriately and face misconduct proceedings then both must receive the same sanction. The PC for example cannot be dismissed and the PS reduced in rank. Both have to be dismissed. You will only be reduced in rank if the breach of standards is rank specific.
As stated, we have only just received the regulations and the intention is to have them introduced in Force by the 1 September 2020. We will still raise some concerns and thoughts with regards to certain aspects of the regulations that we don't think takes into consideration your status as a police officer in BTP. However overall, we welcome these new regulations and the new ethos behind them. Only time will tell if they work or not.
Management Board meeting
This month we also had a Management Board meeting with all the Divisional Secretaries and Chairs. On the agenda was the above terms and conditions debate, the decision to cancel our annual conference, the rules and motions that were planned for conference and how they will now be discussed at a video conference sometime next month. This will allow certain proposed changes to be debated and voted on by the 40 reps across the country.
We also discussed the cost of this year's conference and how we can recoup some of what has already been spent. I am pleased to report that the venue we were planning on using have agreed to reimburse the cost in full and as a result we have placed a deposit with them to hold our conference in Wales in 2022. This allowed us to not only recover the cost of this year's conference but also to negotiate with the venue to honour this year's price for the 2022 booking. So overall, a good outcome.
Those who were due to be recognised by the Federation Awards of Excellence have been informed and their awards and presentations will be carried over again to next year, when we will be also marking the Federation's centenary.
At the Management Board meeting we also discussed the training of a further 12 Federation representatives in Post Incident Procedures with the Police Firearms Officers Association. This training will take place in February 2021.
We also discussed a couple of complaints received regarding the conduct of our reps. These are now being sent to an independent panel to assess the complaints and the conduct of the representative. Yes, for clarity, sometimes our reps do receive complaints and yes, they are investigated and scrutinised by members of the Federation Management Board. Any failings identified can be dealt with by way of a range of sanctions.
As you are all aware, we are still in a national emergency and facing new challenges every day. The next stage of this crisis will be 4 and 6 July when pubs, restaurants and other social areas open up to the public. You all know resourcing levels will again increase over this period, firstly to police those visiting pubs and bars on Saturday 4 July and secondly those who may return to work on Monday 6 July. This will be a challenging time with regards to policing face coverings on the railway.
You should all now have sufficient PPE and face coverings to allow you to wear them when you are required to do so. We have asked the Force to consider issuing more face coverings, especially during these hot days when it is very difficult to wear a face covering for any length of time. We will then obviously start planning for the 1 August when many more, including those shielding, will possibly start returning to work.
Talking of August and following the government's introduction of a two-week period of quarantine after overseas travel, BTP has published its approach to Quarantine after travel for officers and staff. As a Federation we are pleased that negotiations with the Force have resulted in officers being able to use special leave for the quarantine period, in certain circumstances.
All guidance relating to Covid-19 is available on the microsite and queries should be directed to Line Managers. The quarantine policy decision is available here for the benefit of officers who can't access the microsite due to being on leave, shielding or absent due to sickness.
Finally, I want to say that you have and continue to a fantastic job throughout this national crisis and we all appreciate how difficult it has been. Every day you continue to turn out for duty without fear or favour and you continue to put others first before your own safety, especially with regards to this pandemic. Each and every one of you deserves recognition. I am proud to be part of this great force and I am certainly proud to represent you.
As we all know certain restrictions are being lifted slowly but surely and tensions amongst some continue to rise. Every time there is a change in policy, guidance and legislation it's you, the frontline officers, who are expected to adapt, police and enforce, sometimes with little detail and little support.
Your personal lives are turned upside down week in week out with roster/shift changes, rest day cancellations and annual leave restrictions. I don't wish to repeat what I said at the start but please stay safe whilst out there supporting and protecting others and look out for each other, watch each other's backs and if you are struggling please don't do it in silence. Speak with someone, share your thoughts and views and ask for help if you need it. Sometimes only you can ask as others may not see the signs or signals.
From all in the Federation I just want to say yet again a very big thank you. Thank you for your dedication to duty, thank you for your desire to get the job done and thank you for the sacrifices that many have made during this global pandemic and national emergency. You all deserve a medal.
Quote of the Month:
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world."