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 Federation blog for October 2021. If I am honest, I am struggling to know where to start this month. I was going to begin by sharing the outcomes of our annual conference and highlighting the bravery and courage of the colleagues who received Federation Awards of Excellence. However, that has been overshadowed by the heart wrenching murder of Sarah Everard.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In 31 years in policing, I can honestly say that I have never felt so horrified, angry and dispirited. Horrified by the actions of the man responsible. Angry at the impact of his actions on the public (particularly women and girls) but also on the police family. This was the most appalling act imaginable and rightly, the public is horrified. We are too.
Police officers are the public and the public are the police. We joined this job to make a difference, keep people safe, to put those who commit crime behind bars. We want society, our communities, to be safe places where people can live peacefully and only ever call on us when they need us most.
We know we don't always get it right. We are the most scrutinised, inspected, reviewed public sector workers in the country, so we know where things are going wrong. We know changes need to be made, especially in the culture of policing. We know that we need to improve trust between the police service and our communities.
I have felt dispirited reading, watching and listening to stories about policing. Journalists have a role in holding people in public office to account, I get that. But I don't want us to forget that the vast majority of us are here to do the right thing, to preserve life, to protect people. There is no place in policing for the minority who believe otherwise.
I am still proud to say that I am a police officer. I am proud to represent honest, hardworking police officers and volunteers. As a Federation we will support you and we will support the Force to improve trust and confidence. We will also look at our own organisation and consider what more we can do.
This will be a watershed moment for policing and for those who feel they can behave as though they are above the law.
Federation Conference and Awards
Last month we had our annual conference, followed by our Awards of Excellence and our centenary celebrations which were held in the National Railway Museum in York; a very fitting venue for the occasion.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate Paul Miller who was elected by our delegates to the role of Assistant General Secretary of the Federation. Paul is an experienced, time-served police officer, trainer and Federation representative. I am sure Paul will bring many skills and knowledge to the Federation Executive and I look forward to working with him on a range of Federation matters.
Also at our conference, delegates voted in favour of Federation being reviewed by an independent panel. The panel will comprise people with experience of policing, diversity and inclusion, IT, Federation business/finances and legal services. Having reached our centenary, it feels like the right time look closely at what we do and what more we could do. We want to ensure we are in the best position to represent and support our officers and that they are backed by an efficient professional Federation.
We have been working with the Force in support of their diversity, inclusion and equality goals and the Federation must apply those same principles; it is important that the Federation reflects the officers it represents. We want to give ALL of our members the best possible service so we are inviting the panel to look at efficiency, equality and diversity, productivity, resourcing, accountability, trust and legitimacy and make recommendations that will help us to be more efficient, more inclusive and better prepared for the future.
The keynote conference speech to I gave to ministers, our chief officers, the BTP Authority and delegates is available on our website. Ministers were unable to attend due to a three-line whip in parliament but the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, provided a recorded response to my speech and answered questions from delegates.
After the speeches were concluded, delegates posed questions to our newly appointed Chief Constable Lucy D'Orsi and the Chair and CEO of the BTP Authority, Mr Ron Barclay-Smith and Mr Hugh Ind. You can see the full list of questions and answers by following this link. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those officers who asked questions and to thank the Chief and Authority members for their responses. I am sure you will appreciate their openness and frank comments.
After the conference it was my utmost privilege to host our centenary celebrations and the Federation Awards of Excellence, showcasing just some of the excellent work of BTP officers. I am sure our award winners, their guests and our guests had an enjoyable evening. We also gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to an officer nominated by his peers for his self-dedication, professionalism, commitment, and time served in BTP. You can find out more about the winners and watch videos of their stories on our Facebook page.
We know these winners are the tip of the iceberg and we can't pay recognition to everyone who was nominated, but these stories showcase exactly what you do on a daily basis. You should all be very proud to be police officers. You never cease to amaze us and many others with your acts of bravery, tenacity and professionalism.
A Force on the Move
Many of you will have received information on the Force's new vision, values and purpose. "Force on the Move" sets out BTP's aspirations for the future, ensuring we are recognised for the specialist skills we bring to the environment we police. There are new challenges ahead for the policing and security of the railways. The landscape is changing, and BTP needs to showcase that it is the future for policing the Great British Railway.
You have an opportunity to support the Force and to shape that future. I know there will be cynics amongst us who will ask what is different, are we not already doing this? Well yes, to a degree we are. But we need to do more and showcase ourselves more. We need more opportunities to learn and grow, be well-equipped, well-led, informed and listened to. We all bring something unique to BTP.
I have to say as an observer of many new Force projects, initiatives and exercises, this one excites me. It sounds good, it feels good and good things can come from this, not only for BTP, but for all those that work in BTP. If we don't buy into it or trust it then it won't work.
The Chief officer group needs to play their part, the Divisional and sub-Divisional Commanders need to support both the COG and their supervisors and peers, Chief Inspectors and Inspectors need to have courage, confidence, drive and support in delivering these promises. We all need to work with the programme, taking the rough with the smooth, and being bold.
Having attended the Force Strategic Leadership Forum this month to talk about the "Force on The Move" it was very pleasing to hear the Chief Constable explain what she has learnt on her travels around the Force and what the Force needs to address. Some examples of some of the changes that we may experience going forward are: breaking the London-centric/rest of the Force ethos; having an uncompromising Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy; digital stability including our own IT; having a renewed reward and recognition process; reviewing shift patterns; renovating our work spaces and estates; reviewing our heavy leadership structure; accepting and working with 360 review process and insisting on self-demand professionalism. These are but a few that were mentioned and made many sit up and listen. Clearly this exhibits how our Chief Constable has listened to you whilst out and about and how she hasn't just listened, but she is also willing to introduce changes that you have requested.
These are exciting times. We have some hard work ahead of us, but if we engage, listen, provide feedback and support this new focus, then hopefully we can all reap the benefits. We will monitor progress throughout and if you have any positive or negative examples that you wish to share with us, please don't hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
Whilst on the subject of change, you may remember over two years ago the Force introduced a new policy on Biometric Vetting. That is where everyone on the frontline of BTP provides fingerprint and DNA samples that can be compared to crime scenes, for elimination purposes only. If you have recently joined the Force, then these samples have been obtained already as per the process when entering any police service. However, there are a lot of officers and staff who joined before 2019 and haven't provided either fingerprints or DNA.
It was proposed that to address this shortfall of data, anyone who hadn't provided samples would do so at their next first aid course. Sadly, due to Covid this plan never got off the ground. The Force will now revisit the original plan and will proceed to obtaining officers' DNA and fingerprints to be added to the elimination database.
If you have concerns about providing DNA and fingerprints, please read the policy on the Force Intranet and speak with your line manager to discuss any issues.
Flexible Working Policy
The newly agreed Flexible Working Policy has been finalised and published on BTP's system. I would like to thank Shant Hayre for her efforts, hard work and patience with regards to this new policy. This will hopefully offer a better, more blended and flexible approach, to working for various officers and staff in BTP.
While I'm highlighting the work of colleagues, I will take the opportunity to welcome BTP's newly-appointed Diversity, Equality and Inclusivity lead, Karen Wiesenekker. She joins us from the College of Policing having previously served as a police officer in Merseyside Police. From next month, Karen will lead the new structure on all things DEI and we welcome the opportunity to work alongside her and her team along with BTP's employee support associations.
National Negotiating Meeting
This month we attended our National Negotiating Meeting with the Force, Chaired by the Director of People and Culture Rachael Etebar and T/ACC Allan Gregory in the absence of DCC Hanstock. It was a full agenda and I have summarised some of the key points:
Policies - Ongoing matters such as the Overnight Allowance policy, the Movement of Officers policy and the Higher-Grade Duties policy continue to be debated, negotiated and discussed. None of these policies are finalised or agreed so they remain on the NNM Agenda. The Police Officer Compendium is also still on the agenda. We're told it sits with the BTP Authority and the Force Corporate Comms Team but we are assured the final long-awaited document will be delivered and signed off by early next month.
Regulation 11 and 12 - A working party will be set up to look at Police Regulation 11 and 12 to determine if BTP can provide parity with Home Office forces. If introduced, these regulations could result in officers receiving some form of compensation if they are injured on duty to the extent they lose their livelihood. Furthermore, the General Secretary (who has proposed this) will sit on working parties looking at designing and producing new and improved warrant cards for all in BTP and introducing a regulation that allows officers to be reimbursed if any personal items of property are damaged during their tour of duty. This is all very positive and beneficial to the wider work force.
Tenure policy - We are informed that the Force is exploring the possibility of introducing a Tenure policy. This is in the early stages of discussion, but you can be reassured it is not an easy ask. Many forces have tried previously, and many have failed. When you explore the cost versus the benefits, the cost of training officers (particularly in specialist roles) generally outweighs any suggested benefits of tenure. We will keep you updated on any developments.
Regulation 13 - Additionally, the Force is exploring introducing Regulation 13 of Police Regulations which enables the Force to exit individuals who are not performing during their probationary period for various reasons, rather than going through what is described by some cynics as a long-winded Unsatisfactory Performance/Attendance process. Again, in line with parity with our Home Office colleagues, we have agreed to work with the Force to determine what this means for our colleagues in training. Once more, it is early days and we have simply been made aware that such plans are being explored.
Conference motions - All the motions submitted, debated and agreed at our annual conference have now been presented to the NNM Chair. They will be shared with the Force and decisions will be made on which ones they are willing to progress. A list of those motions is available here.
Taser - We have requested that BTP considers authorising trained Taser officers who operate in plain clothes environments, to carry Taser discreetly rather than overtly or not at all. In our opinion, this is a major safety issue. Officers in plain clothes carry Taser overtly which defeats the purpose of being in plain clothes. Those who are genuinely attempting to conduct an operation in plain clothes but who are unable to carry Taser discreetly are putting themselves, members of staff and members of public at risk.
We do have certain officers who are trained and carry Taser covertly, but this is within a particular specialist role and we would suggest if one department can conduct plain clothes duties whilst carrying Taser, so can other officers in other units. There is a suggestion there is cost regarding training and officers identifying themselves as police officers, but we would like to think our new Chief Constable - who is the national lead on Taser - won't allow cost to get in the way of officer safety. We await a response on this matter.
Promotion process - We have received complaints regarding the Force promotion process. For clarity we believe the process is as follows: When successful at passing promotion exams and promotion boards officers are scored on their board results. Those with the highest results/scores are promoted into the vacancies available at that time. Any officers who don't get promoted are placed into a pool of qualified officers. When a new vacancy appears, anyone in that pool can apply for said vacancy if they so wish. Those officers applying will then compete with each other through a selection process to fulfil that vacancy. This is a basic summary of the Force policy as we recognise it.
Nevertheless, we have received reports that in certain locations, officers in the pool have been selected for promotion because they have the next highest score from the board results. We don't believe that to be a fair process. If you are in the pool awaiting a vacancy and six months later there is another board process and an officer gets one more point than you but still ends up in the pool, then the latter process benefits that officer who sat a different board and leapfrogs the first officer who has already waited six months.
We have therefore requested clarity regarding the process and, if the process has changed, why the Federation was not consulted with. This has been taken away by the Force for review and we hope to have one single process that is consistent throughout the Force and is fair to all.
Misconduct regulations - Finally, on NNM matters, we await the legal advice the Force is obtaining regarding the BTP moving away from police officer misconduct regulations. Clearly it is a worrying suggestion that BTP/A is considering whether police officer misconduct can be addressed by moving towards employment law rather than being dealt with under Police Regulations.
As a Federation we strongly oppose any suggestion of moving away from Police Regulations and have placed BTP on notice that any movement towards employment law would open up discussions regarding officers' rights as employees, having access to ALL employment rights, as well as the right to trade union membership and the right to take industrial action.
We believe the Force is being somewhat misled by those who don't have a true understanding of Police regulations, The Railway and Transport Safety Act 2003 and Employment Law. There is a genuine reason why police officers' conduct and performance are dealt with under Conduct and Performance Police Regulations and why police staff are dealt with differently.
Firstly, the Railway, Transport and Safety Act defines what BTPA must do with regards to disciplinary hearing under the Police Act especially with regards to representation. To change that would require a change in legislation. The suggestion that there is an inequality between officers and staff is further flawed because these are very different roles and the Force is not comparing apples with apples.
Being a police officer and facing daily risks of assault, injury and complaints is different from that of being a member of support staff who in the main doesn't face the same risk of assault or injury, the same level of complaints and certainly isn't expected to remove someone's liberty when they are suspected of a criminal offence.
Police officers have powers that no other member of society possesses and with that comes responsibility, as well as regular complaints. So, any suggestion of inequality between police staff and police officers is certainly flawed. Any proposal to deal with allegations of misconduct under employment law rather than police conduct regulations suggest to us that BTP want to be the Force that can hire and fire whenever it suits them, without following a fair and balanced process. Where is the parity in this proposal compared to other police officers?
Be reassured, any such proposal will be challenged without hesitation legally and internally. I believe this flies in the face of introducing our new conduct regulations in January this year, which we were told nationally, throughout policing, were designed to be more about learning from mistakes than apportioning blame. I therefore would question the motives of moving in the opposite direction.
Federation National Elections
Next month we will circulate information about our national Federation elections that will take place in January next year. All 40 Federation positions will go out to election. We want to encourage any officer who has a desire to be a Federation representative to put their name forward in January. If you want to support your colleagues and peers, please fill out a nomination paper and submit it to the national office. You could be the next team of Federation representatives that make a difference.
Ahead of the election we will share the role requirement and expectations, the Federation constitution and nomination forms, allowing anyone of the rank of Police/Detective Constable to Chief Inspector to apply for a post. If more than the allotted number apply and are nominated, then those nominees will go to an election process. Ballot papers will be issued, and your peers will be invited to vote on who they want as their representative in their local area. Once that is decided, the newly elected members will form their local Area Committees and select their Chairs, Secretaries, health and safety and welfare leads.
Please keep an eye out for the nomination forms from 14 January 2022.
Quote of the Month:
"What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do."
Ralph Waldo Emerson