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 first blog for 2021 and may I start by firstly congratulating DCC Adrian Hanstock for being recognised in the Queen's New Year honours list and receiving a well-deserved Queens Police Medal (QPM). It's another example how BTP officers and staff continue to be recognised for their efforts. On behalf of all in the Federation we send a big congratulations.
Robert H. Schiuller
In other good news, this month the Federation welcomed its first members from amongst BTP's Specials. We are enormously proud that these volunteers who do a fantastic job supporting our frontline regular police officers can now receive the same support, advice and guidance as their colleagues. We are also very pleased that BTP and BTPA are supporting us to support our Specials. I believe this demonstrates how we all value the dedication and commitment of our volunteers; I hope they will be pleased with the service we provide them in the future.
If you are a Special Constable in BTP and you haven't yet completed an application form to join, please don't hesitate - all the information you need is on Duty Sheet. If you have questions that you would like answering before joining, do get in touch. There are frequently asked questions on our website, but if you have a more specific query then please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID19: The coronavirus vaccine
Moving onto to other business and I don't know about you, but I have to admit I am somewhat deflated, having listened to so much negativity, so much doom and gloom. I have also felt increasingly sad, especially over the last four weeks, hearing the devastating news of police officers losing their lives, particularly in respect of COVID.
Thousands of people across the country are losing the battle against COVID and I know it's difficult for so many families; our hearts go out to them. Nevertheless, if the Government expects police officers to continue putting themselves at risk, in arms reach of people who are potentially carrying this deadly virus, surely they must - without any further delay - give police officers and other keyworkers the opportunity to receive the vaccination.
Across Europe we see other countries vaccinating their key workers; those on the frontline who don't have a choice but to risk to their own health daily, simply to help and support the country and society. Why hasn't this Government made that decision yet? Surely they know the risks? They hear and see the same news we see and listen to.
I want to be clear: it is not about jumping the queue or beating the vulnerable to the jab. It is about protecting the country's frontline who provide vital services and who cannot stay indoors, following Government regulations and restrictions. It's about protecting the protectors, a simple concept that will aid the country to get back to some form of normality. It cannot be right that officers attending sudden deaths, fatalities, providing emergency first aid, entering private properties, having to get close and personal with people and being spat and coughed at do not and have not received the vaccination.
We are informed discussions continue, we ourselves have written to the Secretary of State for Transport asking for a timeline and seeking their support for BTP officers to receive the vaccination with all other frontline police officers.
Some of you may have seen there has been a change in the guidance regarding PPE requirements. It remains the case that face coverings or surgical masks should be worn at all times when on your jurisdiction, regardless. However, the advice now is that if you are unable to achieve the social distancing measures of two metres, then the minimum level of PPE that should be worn is googles, face covering/surgical mask, gloves and apron. You must assume that everyone is a potential carrier of the virus. If you do wear this level of PPE and it is reported through the NHS Track and Trace that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, then you don't have to isolate for as as long as you can demonstrate you had the four levels of protection.
Obviously we have raised questions as to how this new guidance works in the training environment - especially in the police officer safety training environment - what it means for officers and their track safety, where they are working on or near to the railway. We have also asked how officers who are off duty when contacted by the NHS track and trace will demonstrate they were wearing the required level of PPE to allow them to not isolate for ten days. This is all being looked into by BTP and we wait to see the presentation provided by the NPCC. We are told, however, that the four items of PPE relate only to public facing duties and not when in company with colleagues or when in close contact whilst conducting training. As stated, we wait to see where that is written because the inference we draw is somewhat different.
Throughout the pandemic we have regularly raised concerns about ongoing training, especially training that requires close contact. The NPCC guidance remains unchanged; essential training should continue as long as all reasonable safety measures are in place. As a result, we have invited the Force to provide you with the lateral flow test. This will allow all officers who are attending a close-contact training environment to be tested. This will include PST, first aid, driving training and firearms training. The Force has agreed to look at this as an option and are now exploring the logistics, cost, type of test required and recognised, procedure and policy. I know a business case has been submitted and it is being viewed favorably, so hopefully by the end of this week we will have further news.
This test will provide a level of reassurance especially in the training environment where close contact is unavoidable. If the test proves positive you obviously don't attend the training session and hopefully the indicator is that all in the room should not be carrying the virus. Obviously, it's not 100% accurate but it certainly is a good indicator and is better than what is currently in place.
Police Treatment Centres
The Police Treatment Centres are closed due to the current lockdown restrictions. This is obviously very disappointing for staff at the centres because they have worked tremendously hard and have done so much to stay open during this pandemic. They continue to offer support and assist officers through virtual methods, especially with regards to providing online physio services. Find out more about those services here.
This month I attended the first Police Treatment Centres trustees meeting of the year. It was a full agenda but there is one particular item I would like to update you on and that is the St Georges Police Children Trust. Based at the Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate, this charity aims to ease the financial pressures of bringing up a family when life changing circumstances such as the loss of either parent or an injury or illness to the Police Officer parent means they can no longer work. Any police officer can join this charity and the beneficiaries can now, in addition to the normal benefits, access grants of up to £1,000 per child for access to counselling support.
We all know as parents how difficult it has been for our children during this global pandemic, especially children who may have lost a parent and may need support that isn't readily available through the NHS. So please, if you have a family or you simply want to support the wider policing family please pay a visit to www.stgeorgespolicechildrentrust.org and see what is on offer and how you can support this great charity.
You may also recall that the Home Office is looking at introducing a police covenant, eshrined in law, which places a duty of care on police forces and Chief Constables regarding your and your family's welfare and wellbeing. The original white paper circulated for consultation only included Home Office forces. In company with the Force we raised our concerns as to why BTP and other non-Home Office forces weren't included, which resulted in an acknowledgement that we should all have been involved.
The Force, Superintendent's Association and the Federation all provided submissions to the consultation process, urging the Government to ensure the same protections being considered for Home Office forces are afforded to BTP officers and staff. Sadly, the intentions of the Home Office are that BTP, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Ministry of Defence Police will not be covered by legislation and will instead be covered by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with our relevant Governmental departments. We feel this undervalues your hard work, undermines the role you hold in the policing world, and yet again demonstrates that non-Home Office forces come second best to our Home Office colleagues. As much as we professionalise, follow NPCC guidance and College of Policing recommendations we are not viewed in the same light.
We are making our views on this known and inviting the DFT, BTPA and BTP to support us in persuading the Government, parliament and the House of Lords to write us into the legislation. We have spoken to our colleagues in PFEW, who have been engaged in the consultation process, and have urged them to support this request. We will also lobby parliament and the Lords to the same end.
You deserve the same protection. You wear the same uniform, you face the same risk and if anything, the threat against BTP officers is sometimes higher than in some county Home Office forces given the most recent terrorist attacks/threats that have been on our jurisdiction. We should all be covered by law rather than a MoU written on the back of a cigarette packet that can and will change with the wind. Let's hope common sense prevails.
We have written to the IOPC highlighting concerns about the length of their investigations and the quality of their assessments. Too often we are witnessing IOPC investigators assessing complaints to the highest level possible without a sound rationale. One particular case that demonstrates our concerns fully is that of PC Andy Spiby; an officer who deployed his taser in the line of duty and with an honestly held belief. Doing so resulting in him facing the criminal courts and witnessing some in his community pre-judging and looking on him as a potential criminal. The whole experience ultimately - almost three years later - resulted in no further action.
I am sure I don't have to explain the impact of this to any of you. Andy has written a heartfelt blog about the experience, in which he highlights the importance of having a Federation representative and a legal team supporting you throughout the horrific journey from start to finish. I have written further about my concerns here.
I must say, throughout all this, Andy https://www.btpolfed.org.uk/pubs/iopc0121.htmconducted himself as the ultimate professional, dealing with everything that was thrown at him with immense resilience and determination. He is a very brave and respectful gentleman who is an inspiration to policing.
We look forward to receiving a response to our letter which has been directed to the newly appointed deputy director of the IOPC. I had the pleasure of meeting her earlier this month during a PFEW conduct lead conference call. I was impressed with what she described as attempts to address some of the legacy issues of the IOPC and some of the ongoing concerns we raised at that meeting. Hopefully Andy and others will get an explanation why it can go so horribly wrong and we hope to see some form of reassurance that we won't witness a repeat of such.
Inclusion and Diversity
We have had further productive meetings with C/Supt Dennis Murray and Barry Boffy, the Force's Head of Inclusion and Diversity. As described last month, there is a lot of work that we can all commit to with regards to improving diversity, equality and inclusion. When I say all, I literally mean all. That's all in the Federation, all on the frontline, all in management and all in our Chief Officer Group. I am very pleased to report that we are now looking at how we educate, support and if needed, challenge what is being proposed.
We believe it is vitally important that everyone understands why C/Supt Murray has been employed by BTP in his role as the lead for Trust, Legitimacy and Community policing. It is not simply about Moving the Needle on Race. He has a much wider portfolio and, it seems to us, a massive desire to work on and impact on all matters of diversity, equality and inclusion. This work is both internal and external, with stakeholders and communities, and will compliment Barry Boffy's continued hard work.
Both Mr Murray and Mr Boffy have agreed to do a Q&A session, answering your questions about diversity, equality and inclusion. We're working on the logistics of this - including recording it - but in the meantime we invite you to submit your questions to us. We know some of you feel nervous about asking questions on topics like these and we're happy to ask them on your behalf. We hope the session will help us all to understand the roles, the aims and objectives, the ideas, the strategy and build trust. This is not a gimmick or a tick-box exercise - it's also not an opportunity to send in ridiculous questions. It's a genuine chance for us all to gain a better understanding and to be provided with facts rather rumour and speculation.
Please send your questions to us at email@example.com and as soon as we have worked out the finer details we will let you know.
This month we are conducting a two-day course with Federation representatives from across the Force area so hopefully, by the end of this month, we will have a new group of reps who can support, advise and represent you when you need them most. Keep an eye on our website as their details will appear with contact numbers and locations, should you need them. Please be kind and break them in easily!
Well, that's all the news for this month. Brief but hopefully informative. As always if you have any questions or concerns, please drop us a line.
Quote of the Month:
"Tough times never last but tough people do."
Robert H. Schiuller