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 October 2020 but before I begin, I am saddened to report the heart-wrenching news of another colleague sadly passing away. Many of you will have known Mark Birch who served 30 years as a police officer in BTP and then moved on to being a solid member of police support staff. Mark spent most of his career in the Midlands area. Sadly he passed away this month leaving behind fond memories for many. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark's family, friends and colleagues.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pay recognition to the three members of BTP who were recognised in this year's Queens birthday honours. I am sure you will all join me to congratulate Detective Chief Inspector Kate Forsyth QPM, Detective Superintendent Gary Richardson OBE and Force Resource Manager Elizabeth McWhirter (Liz) MBE. I have worked with all three over the years and I can say they are deserving of their individual recognition. Again, it demonstrates how well BTP officers and your hard work is recognised at such a high level, so well done and congratulations to you all.
October has again been a very busy month and we continue to see changes to COVID regulations and varying degrees of restrictions. If it wasn't difficult enough to understand the previous national regulations/restrictions, we now have regional restrictions, tier level restrictions/regulations, country wide restrictions, devolved restrictions and now circuit breaks. We know how challenging it is to keep up-to-date with what is what, what powers you have, and who can travel and meet. Nevertheless, BTP officers continue to work tirelessly policing those that are travelling on our network while the demand on BTP is slowly returning to pre-COVID levels.
As a Federation, we continue to attend the daily Gold and Silver meetings and raise your queries, questions and concerns. We asked for a review of all non-essential and essential training given the fact the virus is again spreading in a second wave. The decision is that currently all training will continue. The training is described as taking place in COVID secure locations and there is no suggestion that any officers are being put at risk. Thankfully, no officers have so far reported testing positive for the virus as a result of attending a training session. We requested that this decision remains open to review.
We have asked what that means for officers travelling from Tier Three locations to possible Tier Two locations to attend a training session? We await an update on this query.
We have also asked if the Force would continue to review the so-called single patrol strategy, during a period where we are receiving reports that tensions are increasing and policing is taking the brunt of the frustrations. It was decided by Gold Command that the current policing posture will continue. There is no intelligence or evidence of an increase in tensions and assaults on officers are allegedly reducing.
We were invited to supply further evidence to contrary, which we don't have, other than a few anecdotal examples from officers and the events of this summer when tensions were extremely high. So, if you are currently experiencing increased tensions and you have evidence to demonstrate this, especially regarding face coverings, COVID regulations, then can I invite you all to please share that evidence with your Federation. We can then share your examples with Gold Command and seek a review of the continued poor practice of single patrol.
As many of you are aware across the Force, we are seeing an increase in officers and staff testing positive for COVID-19. I have to say that the Force are moving swiftly once a positive test is being reported; colleagues are being informed and some are obviously being instructed to self-isolate, while behind the scenes, the Exit from Lockdown team instigates a deep cleaning regime at locations where reports have been made. Most locations can continue to function under the COVID secure reassurances, however, some locations have to close due to low numbers being based there and where most, if not all, are going into self-isolation.
We have received a small number of reports that some locations do not feel COVID secure. If this is the case, for example there are no hand sanitisers, no face coverings available or no hand washing facilities, then please contact your identified Responsible Person and inform them. It is their role to ensure the workplace (police stations) are COVID secure. Again, any examples where this practice is not happening should be shared with your local Federation representative. It's important it is not ignored, and we simply don't rely on the next person to report it. To remain safe, we all need to do our bit and that includes adhering to social distancing measures. You must all continue to keep two metres apart where possible, wash and sanitise your hands regularly and wear face coverings when possible. Don't put yourself and your colleagues at risk.
The Force posture for policing COVID remains the same with the 4 E's approach: Engaging, Explaining, Encouraging and Enforcing. At the last count there were more than 64,000 interventions and more than 4,300 directions to leave the network. This yet again goes to show how busy our front-line officers have been. What we are also witnessing is the demand on BTP returning close to where it was pre COVID. So, we are nearly back to normal with the added pressures of policing breaches of COVID regulations. As always that elastic band continues to be stretched and it's you, the front-line officers, who are going to burn out.
We all have an element of personal responsibility with regards to rest, recharging our batteries and relaxing from the pressures of work. A lot of you will not have taken the normal amount of annual leave this year, many won't have had family holidays that allow for that down-time and some of you will be working rest days to fulfill the demand due to your dedication to duty. Believe me when I say you can't and shouldn't sustain that level of working. We all need a break; we all need time to be with our families as difficult as that is at the moment. So, my message to you all, is look out for each other, take time out when it's on offer and don't work until you drop. Stay safe, stay well mentally and physically and look after yourself.
Manchester Arena Inquiry
Last month saw the start of the public inquiry into the terrorist attack on Manchester Arena in May 2017. This month we have witnessed some of our colleagues giving evidence, re-visiting those horrendous events and having to explain their actions, decisions and thoughts. All this has been under the scrutiny of the national and international media.
It's never easy giving evidence and anyone who says otherwise is lying. It is even more difficult when you are reflecting on your actions and decisions following such a devasting terrorist attack. We are our own biggest critics, so what officers don't need is to be judged by the media in the way we are witnessing. We obviously cannot give commentary regarding the public inquiry as it is ongoing and our thoughts and prayers remain with all those families that lost loved ones. Nevertheless, we are proud of our officers who dealt with the aftermath of this callous attack on innocent people, those who attended this horrendous event and did what they could to the best of their ability should be proud.
We will all take lessons away from this Inquiry, including BTP leadership, but we are here to support our officers. We have two Federation representatives embedded into the Inquiry, supporting officers giving evidence: Carol Peters and Cath Daley. If you are an officer involved in the Inquiry and you have not yet spoken with Cath or Carol please do so. The Force also has support in place and there are a number of people and organisations that you can speak to for that support. Please take up the offer of help, don't walk away and regret not talking through your thoughts and feelings. Anyone interested in the progress of the Manchester Arena Inquiry can follow updates on the Force intranet or the Inquiry's own website.
Police Staff Pension Scheme
Some of you may be aware that BTP has commenced a 60-day period of consultation with regards to Police Staff Pension Scheme. In the main this is aimed at police support staff and PCSO's, however there will be some police officers who have reached a certain age and will now be paying into a police staff pension (RPS) rather than a police pension. If you are one of these officers, you need to engage with the consultation. Please direct any questions you have regarding these proposed changes to the Force Pensions Manager, Emma Norman, email: firstname.lastname@example.org so she can assist you.
We have also looked at how this will affect officers wanting to take their benefits at 55 years and continue working in BTP. For BTP officers this is a personal choice and not a choice that BTP is introducing. As a police officer in BTP you can remain in the BTP Superannuation Pension Scheme until 60 years of age with permission at 57 years of age. You do not, at 55 years, have to join the Police Staff Pension Scheme. Nonetheless, if you are considering such a move or you have moved already, it is advisable that you enter into the consultation.
The plan is to introduce the new scheme on 1 January 2021 and the scheme is going to be a defined contribution rather than the current defined benefit scheme. The Federation cannot provide pension advice and recommend what, if any, action you should take. We have submitted our views, as has the Superintendent's Association, and it is now down to individuals to participate in the consultation. Anyone considering taking their benefits or leaving one fund to join another should always seek independent pension advice.
While on the pension topic, last month I updated you regarding the new pensions portal launched by RPMI, 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. For those that haven't gone on to the portal yet please do so and complete your nomination form (you can change this at any time if your circumstances change).
National Negotiating Meeting
This month we had our bi-monthly National Negotiating Meeting (NNM) with the Director of People and Culture and the DCC. As well as discussing the 2.5% pay increase in September and the on-call allowance for Post Incident Procedure trained officers, we had a lengthy discussion regarding the long-awaited compendium of your terms and conditions. It was decided that we should meet again in November to determine what we the Federation believe are contractual terms and conditions and how the Force view what we suggest. Furthermore, it allows the Force to approach the College of Policing to seek their views and thoughts.
I have to say I am absolutely astounded that after three years we still cannot get a decision. It's pretty basic in my opinion; you have conditions of service or you have a contract of employment. If you have conditions of service, then we adopt police regulations in full. If we have a contract of employment, then you are entitled to have a copy of a written contract which describes what is expected of you in your role and what you are entitled to claim in pay and benefits for performing that role. This is the fundamental basic principle of employment. Quite why it is so convoluted and long winded amazes me. One or the other and if it is the latter i.e. T&Cs, then all contractual terms and conditions should be recorded openly in a similar style to police regulations and these T&C's are negotiable and cannot simply change through consultation, which is the current practice in BTP.
We now await the outcome of the next meeting and if there is no agreement ("failure to agree") then the BTP Authority will be invited to resolve this issue once and for all.
We have also submitted for the NMM's consideration all the motions that were delivered to us by your local representatives, which are recorded in the minutes of our mini conference in September. BTP has asked for further details which we are in the process of producing and hopefully we will see an outcome on some if not all these motions.
Lastly on NNM matters, we raised our concerns regarding the issuing of certificates of service. Every officer receives a certificate of service when they leave BTP but any officer who has served 25 years or more should be offered the opportunity to be presented with a framed certificate of service by a local senior officer, accompanied with a letter from the Chief Constable. Alternatively, you can have both certificate and letter delivered to your home address.
Clearly this hasn't been working and officers have been receiving a right mixed bag. I have to say when we raised concerns regarding this with the DCC, both he and the Chief were not best pleased that officers were not receiving true recognition of their time served. We all know it's a difficult decision for officers to reach. Policing truly is a family; we have our ups and downs, our good and our fair share of bad and we make friendships and relationships like no other. So, it is saddening to see officers leaving the Force and receiving minimum recognition - a paper certificate posted through the front door and not ever receiving (pre-COVID) a handshake, a hug, or acknowledgement of your time in BTP. I am reassured the errors have been addressed and if you intend to leave you should receive an email asking what your preference is. If you receive such an email, please respond. No arrangements can be made to present your certificate unless you tell the Force that is what you would prefer. If you don't respond it will be sent by post to your home address.
Inspectors and Sergeants Exams
Talking of things that don't go as planned, I am sure many of you have seen the news regarding this year's Inspectors Exam, which suffered technical issues leading to the exam being suspended. BTP had 72 officers sitting the exam this month; some finished it, some didn't get started and some got through parts of the exam before it closed down.
I have to say BTP Learning and Development's Superintendent Malpas was very quick to engage with the College of Policing to determine what went wrong and the remedy going forward. Again, it is pleasing to see that the CoP reacted swiftly and has since published what action is being taken and how each officer who sat the exam can re-sit the exam again. If you haven't seen the flow charts explaining how you can re-sit the test, please contact L&D and they will explain or alternatively you can visit the CoP website that explains all.
Some Forces have now given extra study leave to officers sitting this exam again and BTP has been asked to consider a similar approach. If you are one of those officers, we would suggest you contact your local line managers to acquire authority for any extra time off for studying.
Next month's Sergeants Exam has already been adjusted in light of what was experienced with the Inspectors Exam. The CoP are working with each police force to reschedule these exams and spread them over a three-day period - 10, 11 and 12 November 2020. Again, if you are sitting your Sergeants exam this year contact BTP L&D and they can update you regarding your rescheduled exam date.
Whilst talking of self-development, the week of 16 November 2020 is national Continuous Professional Development week. Follow this link on the intranet http://btp-one/News/pages/National-CPD-Week-2020.aspx to book an appointment with BTP and participate in development opportunities. There are some good guest speakers and opportunities to learn about coaching, interview skills, wellbeing, Reflective Practice and the new police conduct regulations, and much more.
New conduct regulations
Whilst on the topic of conduct regulations, as many of you may know there has been a new set of conduct and performance regulations introduced this year. The Home Office forces are already running with them but they haven't yet been adopted in BTP. We have been in consultation with BTPA/BTP about adopting these same regulations. There are a couple of teething issues, unique to BTP, that are being ironed out as we speak, especially regarding pensions. We were hoping that these regulations would be in place by next month but it seems they now won't be in operation until January 2021.
As a Federation we welcome the majority of these new regulations, because they are focused more on learning from mistakes rather than apportioning blame. There is an added responsibility on our front-line mangers to deal with and address reflective practice. Any supervisors willing and interested should start reading the new regulations especially regarding Practice Requiring Improvement (PRI) and Reflective Practice (RP). The introduction of these regulations will require a culture change for BTP and most in policing. We will have to accept that we make mistakes and have confidence to admit those mistakes, allowing ourselves to enter into the PRI and RP process, ensuring there is no blame culture and that as individuals and as an organisation, we can learn from the mistakes made. Misconduct under these regulations will only relate the more serious matters, not everyday mistakes.
Group Insurance - message to officers approaching retirement
Finally, members of the Group Insurance Scheme who are approaching retirement must apply to remain in the Scheme once retired. You can download the application form from our website or by email@example.com.
You will also need to complete a direct debit form (also available on our website) so payment can be made directly to George Burrows rather than via the Federation. If you don't complete these two tasks your cover through George Burrows i.e. life insurance, holiday insurance, RAC cover etc will all expire once you retire. So please, if you are planning your retirement get hold of these forms and complete them before retiring so it's a smooth transition with no break in your cover.
Thank you for reading this month's blog. I hope it has been informative. If you have a questions, queries or concerns please don't hesitate to contact us email firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote of the Month:
"Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success."