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 November 2021. It is with a heavy heart that I begin with the news of PC Jane Bridgewater who sadly passed away early this month. Jane's death was sudden and a shock to us all. She was a popular and well-respected colleague who had served over 23 years as a police officer in BTP. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jane's wife, family, friends and colleagues.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank T/Supt Dave Rams and Mark Rowe for their efforts in not only supporting colleagues who knew Jane well but for also working with Jane's family, with Occupational Health and the Federation (Cath Daley) with regards to welfare, funeral arrangements and so on. For those who are not attending the funeral but would like to pay their respects, the family has asked that any donations you wish to give are given to the Bedlington Rescue charity which Jane and Bernie love. See the 'donate now' section for ways to give.
We are sure Jane will receive the send-off she rightly deserves. We understand this will be a difficult time for many in BTP and if you are affected by this very sad news please reach out for support, don't suffer in silence. Support is there from your Federation, your colleagues, line mangers and Occupational Health. Remember, it is ok not to be ok.
I also wish to take this opportunity to thank all those officers who were involved in COP26. You were all away from home, family and friends for over two weeks while deployed to one of the biggest events ever seen in the UK. The reports we have received demonstrate what an excellent job you all did; from a policing perspective the event passed peacefully and successfully. I would also like to thank the command team of BTP for the excellent job they did in the planning and preparation, ensuring officers' welfare and wellbeing was a priority.
This operation demonstrated how good the relationship between the Federation and BTP senior command team can be during the planning and during the operation itself, ensuring all your concerns and thoughts were addressed and no one attending the event suffered any form of detriment. On that note I would like to thank Gordon Wason, Stuart Cowan and John-Paul O'Kane who worked the COP26 event but also gave Federation representation throughout, ensuring any concerns were fed back to the command team so issues could be addressed there and then; not that there were many issues at all.
So, a very big thank you to all, from the Gold Command to the boots on the ground, you all should be very proud. We also can't forget those who were left behind, those who filled the gaps, those who held the fort while colleagues were deployed in Scotland. Thank you for your resilience, your efforts and your understanding.
New Deputy Chief Constable
We welcome our new Deputy Chief Constable, Mr Alistair Sutherland, who has joined us this month from the City of London Police. I am told by sources in CoLP that their loss is our gain. It was nice to see the DCC hit the ground running, going out and about visiting Scotland during COP26. We look forward to meeting and working with Mr Sutherland and we wish him all the very best whilst serving in this great Force covering a slightly larger area than one square mile (before all those in the CoLP start complaining, that's a joke; I know you cover the backs of the Met as well).
Moving on, I don't wish to come across as having a rant, but I do genuinely have concerns about police officers' wellbeing, especially those on the frontline who are listening to the daily criticism of policing and its perceived failings.
On my travels I have heard many comments from frontline colleagues in BTP and other forces who feel they are constantly being kicked, relentlessly being blamed and regularly being criticised for the failings of others.
Sadly, many I'm talking to feel that certain senior officers and staff (not BTP, I should add) are also now appearing in the media and publicly criticising policing. While repeating the messages about the need to change policing culture they are pointing the finger of blame, mainly towards the hardworking frontline officers, who are out there day after day policing our communities doing their best in very difficult circumstances.
Those who do this should seriously reflect on themselves, first and foremost. Too many individuals in various positions within policing have, over the years, had an inexcusable acceptance of certain cultures and behaviours. What did they do to change that culture when they were empowered to do so? These same people, in suggesting changes to conduct regulations, appear to be drawing the inference the problem sits with the rank and file officers.
Most of my frontline colleagues know what needs to change but changing the culture of an organisation needs to be driven by the leaders in that organisation.
An aspect of cultural change that is urgently needed in policing is the blame culture. Senior managers/officers who have the responsibility to set those standards, to ensure each force has its own values and ethics, and to ensure a sound strategy around equality and inclusion. As leaders and employers, we have a responsibility to educate, motivate and inspire change. We must ensure that those who are hardworking, dedicated, loyal and professional, feel a sense of belonging rather than a sense of failing.
I receive messages and complaints from officers on a daily basis stating they are shattered, fatigued, stressed, anxious and they no longer have the will or the desire to remain in policing. This results in officers reporting sick or worse leaving policing feeling angry and sadly on occasions suffering with mental health issues.
As officers, we need to be proud of what we do, accepting that on occasions we don't always get it right. My colleagues demonstrate daily their resilience, tenacity, dedication, respect and sheer bravery and that's why I am proud to represent them. This Federation welcomes change, change for the better, change for all and change that makes a difference to those in policing and those who we protect.
We need to work together to bring about the changes that are needed, rather than pontificating publicly in a self-serving fashion. We must all take an element of responsibility and look to inspire change not just talk about it.
Action speaks louder than words and I read a quote recently that said: "Leadership is never about tearing people down and making people feel less than themselves. Leadership is about people; it's about inspiring people to believe that the impossible is possible. It's about developing and building people to perform at heights they never imagine. It's about making a positive impact on your community, your company, your department, your employees and by extension the world. As leader you don't inspire your team by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are. If you haven't read Gifford Thomas' book, I can recommend it.
So, my message to anyone especially those at a senior level, is to think twice before criticising your hard-working colleagues. Prioritise creating a sense of belonging, a sense of trust, creating a healthy working environment that will result in change. Change will only occur when we are all engaged, feeling part of the team, motivated and inspired to bring about that change.
Independent review of the Federation
Whilst on the topic of change, I am pleased to report that we have had our first meeting with the newly-appointed Chair who will lead an independent review of the Federation. Peter Smyth is the CEO of the Metropolitan and City Police Orphans Fund, a charity that provides support to families whose police officer parent has died. His is a former police officer with 30 years' experience both in policing and Federation matters.
Peter is currently establishing the review plan and electing a number of independent panel members (who are not part of BTP or BTP Federation) to review the various strands of your Federation. A timeline has now been set, the objectives of the review have been established and the aim is to provide a report of options for making the Federation more efficient and effective for the benefit of its members. Recommendations will be taken to our 2022 conference to be voted on by delegates.
Starting next month, some of our members, Reps and our staff will be interviewed, our policies and processes will be inspected and reviewed, our constitution will be evaluated. Our IT will be examined and tested, and the panel will also look at our diversity, inclusion, and equality strategy.
There will also be surveys for our members and Reps. While I appreciate you may be feeling 'surveyed-out', it is crucial we know what you want from your Federation. We want to be a more diverse representative association that is more inclusive, efficient, professional, and cost-effective. This review has been in the planning for some time now and it was pleasing that the proposal was supported by all Federation Representatives from across the country, who voted in favour of the review at our annual conference this year. So finally, the ball is now rolling, and the review will commence once the panel is fully formed and briefed.
Updates will be posted throughout the process so keep an eye on the news section of our website, our monthly UPDATE newsletter and this blog.
Whilst on the subject of diversity and equality, next month marks the start of the Federation's national elections. Every five years every Federation Representative position across the country is up for election. We would invite you all to consider standing for election, especially if you have a desire to support your colleagues.
This is the first time in recent history that these elections have been publicised nationally amongst all our members. Every member of the Federation is entitled to stand for these elections so if you think you can help bring about change, not only in the Federation but more locally in your policing area, you should consider putting yourself forward.
If you are currently supporting a colleague, if you are already part of a support association, if you already give up some of your valuable spare time to assist or advise others that need support, you may already have those basic skill sets that is needed to be a Federation rep. Further training is provided. An information pack will be circulated to all members in the coming days but in short, you need one serving member to propose you and another from your policing area supporting that proposal. Your name will then go in the election process. If you are interested you can request a nomination form by emailing email@example.com
Support Association Conference
In other news, I recently attended the Force Equality Support Association conference in Cardiff. I would like to thank Barry Boffy for the invitation and for organising the event with the support of others, especially Diane McCarthy. It was a brilliant day, offering not only the opportunity to mix and chat with support association members, but also to learn. The guest speakers were fantastic and taught me a lot about leadership, diversity and equality. I left with the feeling that we are all on this journey together and we are all on a learning curve with regards to issues of equality and diversity.
No one person is more qualified than another to explain, describe or educate us on equality, diversity and inclusion. We all have different experiences; we have all had a different up-bringing and we all have different thoughts. So, it is vitally important we all learn together, listen to each other and respect each other's views and opinions.
Sadly, Barry Boffy has announced he leaving BTP next year, which is our loss and someone else's gain. Barry has been a true loyal champion of BTP. His dedication to bringing about change has been amazing, and I know it hasn't always been easy. Nonetheless Barry has and always will be a superstar. I thank him for his support, especially his support of the staff associations including the Federation. I thank him for his counsel, advice and sometimes frank and honest feedback. Every day is a school day and I have personally learnt so much from Barry. On behalf of the Federation, we are so sorry to him leave but wish him all happiness and success for the future.
As Barry gets ready to depart, we welcome Karen Wiesenekker who has been appointed the Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Karen joins us from the College of Policing and Merseyside Police, where she has served for 30 years. I have had the privilege of meeting Karen via TEAMS and again I look forward to working with her. She has a vast knowledge of policing, a working experience of Federations and a wider understanding of EDI.
As you may be aware, on 27 September 2021 a consultation was launched which closes on 27 November. The consultation relates to the British Transport Police Shared Cost Section of the Railways Pension Scheme, which in the main is the pension scheme for Police Staff. The consultation is proposing a relatively small increase in contributions as a result of the 2019 valuation of the scheme. Members of the police pension scheme (RPS) are not affected by this consultation nor are officers in the CARE scheme and the BTP Superannuation Fund (BTPSF). However, there are a small number of officers who are active members of the BTP Cost Section of the Railway Pension Scheme, and it is for this reason that the Federation and the BTP Superintendents Association are engaged as part of the consultation process. If you are in the scheme and you haven't seen the proposed changes in contributions then please contact Emma Norman BTP Pensions manager ASAP firstname.lastname@example.org
National Negotiating Meeting
Sadly, the next National Negotiating Meeting has been cancelled so there are no updates, especially regarding the legal advice the Force was seeking on changing the misconduct regulations, so we await an update on that.
We have now submitted a paper to the Force inviting the Chief to suspend the Job-Related Fitness Test until next year when we hope to see the newly designed curriculum for the Police Officer Safety Training; a curriculum being tested by Avon and Somerset Police. In light of this development, we see no justification for the continuation of the JRFT. There is no commentary identifying or justifying the discriminatory impact of the JRFT and currently it has no objective association with the requirements of certain roles in policing; as a Federation we believe the test should be completed on the basis of individual role requirements. Furthermore, there is no formal process of performance management or development for those who struggle to pass the test. We appreciate this is very subjective, nevertheless the test is discriminatory and whether is discriminating against one person or hundreds of people it should not be allowed to continue. We obviously wait the Chief's decision.
Finally, on NNM matters I am pleased to announce that we now have the completed long awaited compendium, all it needs now is the signatures of BTP Authority, the Chief Constable and the Federation. We are hoping this will be completed and circulated by the end of this month/start of next month. We will look upon it as an early Christmas present.
Thank you as always for reading this month's blog, I do hope you find it informative and of benefit. If you have any questions or concerns as always don't hesitate to contact your local Federation representative or drop me an email.
Quote of the Month:
"We are not a team because we work together. We are team because we respect, trust, and care for each other"