Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Colleagues, I shall begin the blog for July 2020 by saying a very big thank you to you all. Policing and those who serve the public are facing immense criticism from certain quarters of society at the moment, supported sadly by certain media outlets. Policing and the acts of individual officers are under considerable scrutiny and many armchair critics are choosing to sit and publicly lambast the actions of many brave officers.
I want you all to know that this Federation supports you in your role. We admire your continued dedication to duty and your desire and professionalism to help others. No one can truly understand the importance of your role or the difficulties you all face on a day to day basis unless they have walked in your boots.
Many of you don't have time to dissect the law, to put your own thoughts and interpretations on how the law should be written, nor do you have the time or benefit of hindsight. You have decisions to make. Many decisions must be made in a split second, many decisions will save lives or prevent serious injury, and many decisions prevent another person from becoming another statistic.
Yes, we make mistakes, but I believe we learn from those mistakes. We can never stop learning, never stop trying to do the right thing and we have to embrace change. No matter what the views of certain members of society, whatever a journalist wants to report and whatever is shared on social media, I want to reassure you all that you are doing a fantastic job in very testing times and I would encourage you to take pride in that. We the BTP Federation are very proud of you all and we are proud of the excellent work you do to protect so many from harm, hate and hindrance.
If the critics genuinely want to see change in policing then we invite them to enter in to peaceful, meaningful and constructive discussions. Be engaging, work with us, bring your ideas and experiences, and let's look at separating the good and the genuine from those who are content in stirring up hatred for policing and who stand by and film others getting seriously injured through criminal acts.
Remembering the 7/7 attacks
This month, we paused to remember the tragic and callous terrorist attack in London fifteen years ago. On that day, 52 people lost their lives and several hundred others were seriously injured; many of our colleagues and friends were affected by the aftermath and devastation.
Obviously, our thoughts and our prayers are with the families who lost loved ones as a result of these attacks, but we keep our colleagues at the forefront of our minds too.
There are many serving and retired officers of BTP who will never forget what they witnessed on that day; many still suffer from those experiences. These types of incidents may be forgotten by our critics, but our colleagues will never forget. Those memories never leave us and nor should they. It's vitally important we remember: remember those that lost loved ones; remember those that suffered injury whether physical or psychological; remember how our colleagues bravely dealt with the aftermath. Sadly, BTP officers continue to deal with attacks of terrorism on our jurisdiction to this day as they police and protect a national infrastructure.
All change at the top
As many of you will know the deadline for applicants to become the new Chief Constable of BTP closed on the 10 July. By all accounts we have some very good applicants which is very reassuring. However, prior to that deadline, DCC Adrian Hanstock announced his retirement from BTP and policing. This announcement came as a shock to us, knowing the Force is in the process of selecting a new Chief Constable and now obviously that process will have to be replicated for a new Deputy Chief Constable.
Mr Hanstock has always worked closely with the Federation and he has always been engaging, supportive and more importantly willing to listen to our views and concerns. His focus on welfare, diversity and equality has been very welcome. As many know the Federation and the Force don't always see eye to eye and it's important, we are a critical friend of the Force and its command team.
Mr Hanstock has always remained very professional, thoughtful, considerate and balanced in his decision making. We wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement and we thank him for his service to policing over the last 37 years, in particular in the last 7 years in BTP.
Obviously, we will welcome the newly appointed Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable but we do have to face the fact that we will lose many years of corporate memory with regards to BTP and our policing model. That's not being disrespectful to anyone in our command team who have many years in policing, nevertheless BTP is unique and unlike many other police forces.
We police an environment like no other, we have an abundance of specialisms and we have a particular relationship with our stakeholders. Our status and structure are different, and our employer is separate to all other policing quarters. We do a fantastic job and should stand proud. It is important for any successor to the Chief and the DCC to understand the significance of our specialism, our structure, our methods and how we are funded.
With that in mind we invite any newly appointed Chief Officer to engage with the Federation and to listen to our concerns, share our experiences and to ensure inclusiveness of the Federation going forward. I want to assure any newly appointed Chief Officer that we are not on opposite sides; in BTP we would like to think there is not an 'us and them' scenario. We are firm believers in working together to achieve joint aims and aspirations, to ensure the workforce is valued and supported, ensuring the job gets done to the best of our ability and in doing so we feel proud, motivated to return the following day and content that yet again an excellent service has been delivered. That's all the majority of us want. Working jointly rather than in isolation is better for all; it's better for the members we represent, it's better for all officers and staff, it's better for the industry and its better for the community we police. Assaults against emergency workers
Assaults against emergency workers
This month the Government and the Home Secretary are considering plans to double the maximum jail term for criminals who assault emergency workers. As many will remember this Federation supported the Police Federation of England and Wales and other emergency services unions with the "Protect the Protectors" campaign. This campaign got the backing of various politicians and resulted in the introduction of new legislation of assault against emergency workers. The offence, which attracts a maximum prison sentence of 12 months, was introduced in late 2018.
Sadly, we have witnessed that assaults against emergency workers are on the increase and that includes assaults against BTP officers and PCSOs. Clearly the above legislation hasn't created much of a deterrent. In the last 3 years more than 1,830 officers and staff in BTP have been assaulted whilst on duty and we continue to witness offenders walking from the courts with small fines. One the rare occasion when prison sentences are handed down, they amount to weeks rather than months spent inside.
Clearly, more needs to be done to address the growing concerns about the safety of our protectors. We therefore welcome the Home Secretary's new approach and we are pleased to report that we have been invited to participate in the consultation.
We are in the process of drafting a response and have many examples where the justice system has let our officers down, where they have not felt like they have been treated as victims of crime. This results in officers feeling undervalued, vulnerable, unsupported and treated like cannon fodder. If you have had similar experiences over the last year or two and are willing to share them with us please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 31 August - the deadline for submissions is quite tight. We will share our submission once completed.
Pension compensation claim
Whilst talking of consultation matters another government consultation has been launched with regards to the Public Service Pension Schemes. This relates to the 2015 reforms introduced to all public service pension schemes. This does NOT relate to the BTP pension scheme. It relates to our Home Office colleagues and therefore colleagues who have transferred over to BTP and whose pensions still sit in their old Home Office scheme.
This consultation is about setting out the Government's proposals for addressing the discrimination for those affected by changes to their final salary schemes where they were tapered on to a Career Average Scheme. We would encourage any BTP officer who has transferred from the Home Office in to BTP to enter into this consultation process. It's important your views and thoughts are shared. Here is the link to that consultation and the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions that you may find useful.
In addition to the above we have also linked in with PFEW on their pension compensation claim with regards to this discrimination. With the assistance of the Force, all those affected officers have been invited to submit a claim through PFEW. Following difficulties some officers had with submitting the required questionnaire there is now a link available which has been set up purely for BTP officers who are ex Home Office officers and who are entitled to claim for compensation. The deadline for claims is 31 July 2020 so we would encourage all officers concerned to complete the claim ASAP and if you haven't seen the link then please contact Emma Norman at email@example.com to obtain a copy.
Diversity and inclusion
This month I attended an equality, diversity and inclusion forum where there was an interesting debate on BTP introducing a new policy called Moving the Needle on Inclusion. The original paper, which we challenged, is now being presented to the Chief Officer Group.
I want to reassure our members that we didn't challenge the premis of the report which is addressing equality and inclusion in BTP. Is there still a problem in BTP regarding inclusion and equality? We would suggest there is. However, we felt this particular paper had a narrow focus, rather than looking at all minority groups, and its approach - in our view - was very negative.
The paper is timely, given what's happening in society with regards to Black Lives Matter, and is an important issue to address in policing and in BTP. Nevertheless, what wasn't recognised in the original submission, was the work done so far and which continues today and that was our major concern. The Force and many in BTP have worked tirelessly with regards to equality, diversity and inclusion. We have a diverse work force and we have programmes and projects that seek to address address equality and inclusion. We should all feel more confident in challenging our experiences of discrimination and we should all be challenging behaviour that is racist, sexist, homophobic, or offensive whatever your background, culture, or identity.
We as a Federation stand against discrimination of all kinds. We know that members are still experiencing concerns and behaviour that is unacceptable. We know much more can be done and we welcome the aim behind Moving the Needle on Inclusion, nevertheless let's consider what has been achieved so far and ensure we don't forget what we have learned over the last 20 years, in particular. It's important we continue to reflect on what happened in the past as well as addressing and challenging what is happening now. We must all work together and learn from each other; being inclusive of all is the only way that we ensure that everyone is taken on the journey.
Volunteering as a Trustee
I am very pleased to report that I have been appointed as a Trustee of the Police Treatment Centres and the St George's Police Children's Trust. It is a great honour to be a trustee and give something back to a charity that has helped thousands of officers across the country with physical injuries and mental wellbeing. I have experienced what the Treatment Centres offer and I have to say I don't think I would have still been in policing if it wasn't for the excellent work of the PTC in Harrogate.
There are those who question why they would pay into something they are probably never going to use. Part of me thought the same when I joined, however I paid my subscription and thought that if I didn't benefit from it, someone else would. Then in January 2009 during a football match and having scored two goals, I collapsed and had numerous cardiac arrests over the next 48 hours.
Once the brilliant NHS did their part by saving my life, I needed to get back to exercising, building up my strength, my confidence and my mental health. I had forgotten about paying into the PTC until my Federation friend paid me a visit and asked if I was donating which thankfully, I was.
I reluctantly booked into what I thought was another location full of cops who would want to drink and party and this was certainly not what I wanted. I set off to Harrogate, scared, apprehensive and doubting anyone could help me. Am I glad I was pushed to go? Absolutely! The entire team got me back to where I was before I was poorly, they built up my confidence, my fitness levels and they helped with my mental wellbeing. Honestly, I would donate for another 20 years for the treatment, care and support the staff of the PTC gave me in those very important two weeks of my police career.
We can never know what's around the corner and yes, you may donate for your entire career and never use the Centres, but that support and assistance is there long into your retirement . If you are injured or fall poorly there is no better place that I could recommend other than the PTC. So, it is a great honour some 11 years on, that I can give a little bit back and repay the charity and those that helped me in my time of need but also, I can help others in supporting this excellent charity.
Finally, you will have seen the Government has decided to award a 2.5% pay rise to all ranks in policing this year. We have urged the Force to mirror this pay increase and to also adopt the recommendations: increasing London allowance by £1,000 a year for officers appointed on or after September 1994; increasing the allowance for dog handlers; the removal of the lowest point of the Sergeant's pay scale.
For those that don't know, BTP officers aren't automatically awarded these pay increases. British Transport Police Authority has to authorise this through a different process because of the way BTP is funded. We have reminded BTPA of the recommendations that all BTP officers receive pay parity to our Home Office colleagues and will hopefully be able to confirm this news before September, which is when any increases generally come into effect (backdated).
We are entering into a very busy part of the year. As many of you know, although Notting Hill Carnival has been cancelled, policing in London - including BTP - is preparing and planning for alternative events that will be occurring in the month of August, during a time that many want to take leave with their families and friends. We also now have the added mandatory wearing of face coverings/masks whilst on duty most of the time, especially on patrol.
The weather is likely to improve and temperatures will rise again so please look out for each other. Wearing a mask/covering for long periods will be uncomfortable but also dehydrating and you must ensure you have regular breaks. Ensure you all take on plenty of fluid and where possible try to get some fresh air away from stations. Please all stay safe and stay well.
Quote of the Month:
"Whatever you are, be a good one."