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 September 2020 and there is a lot to share with you. Before I begin, I am saddened to yet again report on the heart wrenching news of another police officer being killed in the line of duty. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sergeant Matiu Ratana's family, friends and colleagues. Clearly, we cannot make any comment whilst there is an ongoing investigation, but yet again this devasting news is just another terrible reminder of the threat you all face when turning out to do your duty. Please stay safe, look out for each other and continue the excellent work that you all do every day of the week. If you've been affected by Sgt Ratana's death please speak to someone, speak to your Federation rep, speak to the Force; just don't suffer in silence.
Coronavirus legislation enforcement
August and September have again proven to be very busy months. Although most sporting events are behind closed doors to fans and supporters, BTP officers have continued to work tirelessly policing those that are travelling on our network. Whether it's for business or leisure, it has proven to be busier than anticipated, especially during the finer weather when coastal resorts became the attraction for many seeking sun and beaches. While many enjoyed a holiday, you all continued your efforts in ensuring everyone travels safely and observes the COVID regulations imposed by the Government.
It was reported that 90-95% of passengers travelling on the railway complied with wearing face coverings. It seems that this level of compliance may be dropping and the Force is now in the process of looking at hotspots where non-compliance is obvious, and those hotspots can be targeted more directly and proactively with an uplift in enforcement. You have had nearly 54,000 interventions during this pandemic, but the Government, Train Operating Companies and others want more from policing, especially from BTP.
In the main, the Force's posture of Engaging, Explaining, Encouraging and Enforcing has been effective. However, it pains me to report that we are still experiencing a minority of people who refuse to comply with the regulations and some individuals are turning their frustration onto police officers and making your role even more difficult.
I see commentary suggesting 'everyone' is confused about the new restrictions and what is and isn't permissible however, it is very clear that while on public transport you should wear a face covering unless exempt and you should keep a two-metre distance where possible. Keep yourself safe and keep others safe. That's not so hard to follow surely? Sadly, there are a select few who simply don't want to follow these rules. Instead they cause a disturbance, create panic amongst others and challenge officers, filming exchanges and sharing clips online.
I am sincerely astounded by some people's ignorance; however, I am proud and honored to be part of this Force where I witness colleagues, day in day out, putting their lives and their health on the line in order to get the job done. I thank you sincerely for your continued efforts and professionalism.
Manchester Arena Inquiry
This month saw the start of the public inquiry into the terrorist attack on Manchester Arena in May 2017. This will be a very challenging time for many, specifically those who sadly lost loved ones and who are having to listen to and revisit the horrendous events of this callous attack. Furthermore, there will be an impact on those emergency workers who attended the aftermath, reopening the horrific memories they all carry.
We have two Federation representatives embedded into this inquiry to support our officers: Carol Peters and Cath Daley. Their full details can be found on the members part of our website. If you are an officer involved in the enquiry and you have not yet spoken with Cath or Carol please do. They are there to support you and assist where they can. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved.
We are pleased to report the Force has agreed to formalise the way in which the Federation is engaged in post-incident procedures. If you are involved in a firearms event or a death or serious injury where there was police contact, you could find yourself in a post-incident procedure where you are expected to provide an account into your actions and what you witnessed.
As you will appreciate, the nature of these events mean they can be very traumatic. The majority of the time, the IOPC in company with PSD, will conduct the investigations and ensure your actions are accounted for. They will also seek forensic evidence, CCTV and other witnesses. Even in normal circumstances it's not easy being questioned, scrutinised and challenged about what you have done and why you decided to take a particular course of action, and it's even harder when you have experienced a traumatic event where someone may sadly have lost their life. Transparency and accountability are vitally important, but just as important is your welfare. Officers involved in these events should be supported and given timely advice regarding their wellbeing and the assistance available.
With this in mind, we are reassured that the Force has agreed to put an on-call procedure in place for officers who are trained in Post Incident Procedure (PIP) as Federation representatives and pay on-call allowance. This mirrors the on-call agreement that Post Incident Managers receive. This will ensure that Federation and legal advice is deployed immediately and in put place without delay or disruption, as per the guidance from the College of Policing and the IOPC.
As a Federation we have 12 trained officers across the Force area and plan to train a further ten in February. These officers will be there to provide support through Post-incident Procedures as well as any subsequent inquest, public enquiry or criminal proceedings. We welcome this decision - which has been a long time coming - so if you are ever engaged with a PIP please ensure you contact the Federation.
Assaults against officers
The Home Office has announced that anyone assaulting an emergency worker during their tour of duty could now face a prison sentence of two years. This is a positive step in the right direction but there is still a lot of work to follow this decision and for the courts to react accordingly to these new sentencing guidelines. Nevertheless we welcome this change in direction and hope it will create a deterrent and encourage certain offenders to think twice before assaulting an emergency worker.
BTP Federation took part in the consultation process and you can see our submission to the consultation here.
Another consultation process we, as a Federation, participated in concerned the creation of a new police covenant, enshrined in law. If agreed, this means there will be a duty of care on all forces to ensure serving and retired officers are protected regarding their welfare and wellbeing.
Our response pressed for serving and retired BTP officers to be included in the Police Covenant to ensure we mirror the Home Office in offering the same duty of care. The consultation results have been published and 90% of respondents support the Government's plans. We now await the final decision.
Police Treatment Centres
Whilst on the topic of wellbeing I am pleased to report that the Police Treatment Centres in Harrogate and Scotland reopened this month and are running a newly designed wellbeing program. They are also introducing "Thrive" which promotes and improves officers' health and wellbeing. You can find out more by visiting the charity's website. To apply for the wellbeing programme you need to complete a new form which is on the charity's website and this form must be signed by your GP/consultant or by an OH advisor for the Force.
If you are not a member of the Police Treatment Centres please consider it. The benefits that the centres offer to get you fit and well when you have experienced ill health or an injury are tremendous. There is no other place that can match the excellent treatment offered and, being a charity, they rely on donations which are mainly made up of police officers being members. The cost is £7.20 per month.
Pay and Pensions
Having written to both the Force and the Authority with our concerns for this year's pay award, BTP has agreed to the 2.5% pay rise in line with our Home Office colleagues. Also agreed is the 2.5% increase in the dog handers' allowance and London allowance, and the removal of the first pay point of the Police Sergeant salary. These increases should appear in this month's pay.
What wasn't agreed was the additional recommendation for certain officers in London to receive an additional £1,000 per year. This was a recommendation from the Home Office and Chief Constables were given discretion over the decision to pay. Neither the Metropolitan Police or City of London Police are paying this allowance to their officers so - in line with pay parity - BTP will not be paying this additional sum.
Moving on to pensions and the Home Office Pension Challenge: we have now agreed with PFEW that those officers in BTP who are former Home office officers and are affected by the pension challenge can now participate in that claim. You should have all received a questionnaire to complete and submit to PFEW. Your responses will be added to those submitted by your Home Office colleagues and form part of the challenge against the discrimination claim. Obviously, this does not affect officers in BTP who have not transferred in to BTP from the Home Office. We hope our assistance in this matter has aided you in getting involved and hopefully your submissions will go a long way to the pension issue being resolved sooner rather than later.
While on the pension topic, RPMI has launched a new pensions portal where you can access detailed information regarding your pension, its value, your nominations and much more. You do need to register when you first log on and it is advisable that you complete your nomination details immediately.
God forbid that anything happens to us whilst serving but you must register details of the person you are nominating to receive your death-in-service pension should the worst happen. Without this nomination being completed, the decision as to who in your family gets your pension then sits with the trustees. So, please go on to the new portal and register your details to ensure your wishes are followed.
The impact of coronavirus meant we had to postpone our annual conference this year so haven't had an opportunity to pay recognition to those officers who were nominated by their peers to receive an Award of Excellence. Given the ongoing uncertainty around the virus and its effect on conferences and events, our next conference will be held in September 2021, rather than in March. Officers nominated to receive awards in March of this year will now receive their awards at next year's ceremony. Our 2021 conference will also mark BTP Federation's centenary.
In the absence of having a conference this year, some of our business has been has conducted differently, including the proposed rule changes and motions which would have ben debated at the event. This month we held a virtual mini-conference where Federation representatives from across the Force discussed, debated and voted on issues affecting the welfare and wellbeing of members. The full list of motions and rules changes will be published on our website shortly, along with a record of the meeting.
Federation membership opened to Specials
One of the matters agreed at the mini-conference and which has led to enquiries both from officers and Specials is the decision to allow BTP's Special Constable to join the Federation. This was agreed by a majority vote by delegates and does not require an amendment to the Railway, Transport and Safety Act.
The cost of joining the Federation will be exactly the same for Special Constables as it is for all other members, whether they work full-time, part-time or a flexible working pattern. There are no discounted rates for any member of the Federation. Furthermore, there is no difference in what you are entitled to as a member of this Federation regardless of rank, role or position you hold in BTP. If you are a member of the Federation, you are offered the same service throughout.
General iformation on how to join and what's covered is available on our website but we are meeting with the Chief Officer of BTP Specials to work out some of the finer detail and how we introduce Specials into the Federation membership. We aim to commence with this new rule change by January 2021.
Management Board meeting
Further to the mini conference we have also held a Management Board meeting at which Secretaries and Chairs from across the Force area met virtually to discuss the work they are doing and raise some of your concerns. This meeting resulted in a number of issues that we will now address with the Force; minutes are being compiled and will be published our website.
One of the matters we discussed was the results of the most recent staff survey. I would like to thank Emma Norman from BTP who gave us an excellent presentation on the BTP pension schemes as well as a summary of the staff survey. We are keen to support the Force in addressing some of the points that have been identified through the survey, one of which is welfare/wellbeing support.
We have met with the team from Efficacy, who provide counselling and treatment for mental health matters for officers who have experienced trauma. I was very impressed with the presentation, the evidence of the excellent work they are doing and the answers they provided to some of your questions. However, there is a gap between the most serious cases where Efficacy will step in, and those where officers are struggling with anxiety, fatigue, burn out and many other concerns that don't necessarily require cognitive behavioural therapy. There is also a gap with regards to communications and making you aware of what is on offer.
We have a further meeting planned for October to address some of these concerns, but it is reassuring that the Force is listening. BTP's newly appointed Director of Health and Safety and Wellbeing, Megan Taylor, seems willing not only to make changes, but is happy to engage with officers/staff and associations. I have a good feeling about the direction the Force is moving in with wellbeing and hopefully you will start to see some positive changes and results. There's a lot of work to do but I am confident working together with Megan and her team we can get better at looking after our own.
Staying with your wellbeing, you may have seen the latest coronavirus update from the Force regarding working from home. If you haven't seen the new policy, please visit the website. We have asked the Force to consider: whether to suspend non-essential training; revisting risk assessments for essential training and what that looks like going forward considering the rule of six; the current levels of PPE; whether to procure the COVID test privately for police officers and staff; and finally, whether to give consideration for cancelled rest days to be reinstated especially in and around New Year's Eve. We are waiting for those questions to be reviewed and received. Please keep an eye on the microsite and our website for updates.
Stonehaven and Llangennech
I would like to show our gratitude to all those who responded to the recent derailments in Scotland and Wales. Having been heavily involved in previous derailments, and as the Deputy SIO on one particular investigation, I know how much hard work these incidents require. Many officers and staff will have spent days living out of suitcases and won't have seen their families for some time. We would all like to say a very big thank you to you for your hard work, devotion to duty and for the commitment you have to your role.
I would also like to pay recognition to the Rapid Relief Team (RRT) who turned out at both incidents to provide food and refreshments for frontline staff. RRT is a charity whose volunteers turn out to major incidents in support of our emergency workers. Members at the scenes truly appreciated that support and are very grateful for the efforts the RRT. So, a massive thank you from us all. Also on scene were our local Federation representatives who assisted with the enquiries and offered support where needed. We hope incidents like this never take place but when the worst happens, essential support systems that swing into action and many of them rely on the goodwill and dedication of volunteers.
Outgoing Fed Reps
Finally, I want to pay recognition to two outgoing Federation Representatives. Firstly, Dominic Wilcox who has hung up his Federation boots to focus on his CID work. Thank you Dom for your efforts over the last five-plus years in particular, thank you for your dedication, hard work and continued support of the BTP Federation. I am sure there are many of your peers who will join me in thanking you for everything you have done to support and advise others. Your scouse humour, lively political views and ideas will be missed.
Secondly, our thanks to Dougie Brownlee who has sadly retired from the Force, and therefore the Federation. Dougie was a loyal servant to both and he will be missed tremendously by many. On behalf of all in the Federation I would like to say a very big thank you for all that you have done in your 30-plus years in BTP and in the BTP Federation. You have been a rock, a great advocate and true gentleman throughout and I am saddened to see you leaving BTP. Nevertheless, we wish you a long and happy retirement and hope you and your family enjoy the rest and relaxation you so well deserve. Stay safe both and once again a very big thank to you both from all in the Federation.
Quote of the Month:
"Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you."