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 June 2022. I shall start by welcoming Stuart Cowan, the newly elected National Chair of BTP Federation, to West Dulwich. Stuart joined us on the 20 June in preparation of a handover, enabling him to take up the full time role on Monday 8 August. For the next few weeks, Stuart will be splitting his time between West Dulwich and Scotland where he is based, to arrange his transfer, take ownership of the Chair's responsibilities and to find his feet with the running and functions of the Federation. I am confident he will be a great Chair with bundles of enthusiasm, self-motivation and an absolute desire to support his peers and colleagues. I hope you will all join me in supporting Stuart in his new role and you will show him the same support and encouragement you have shown me over the last six years. Reese Witherspoon
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate both Keith Jarrett and Barry Boffy for their well-deserved recognition in the Queen's Jubilee Honours. Both received the MBE for their excellent work around diversity and inclusion. They should be very proud of their achievements, and we send our warmest congratulations.
June has been another busy month and on behalf of all in the Federation I would like to pay recognition and offer thanks to those officers who worked extremely hard over the extended bank holiday weekend. The Queen's Platinum Jubilee was an historic event that certainly won't be repeated in our lifetime. While many celebrated, went to concerts, drank fizz and ate cakes at street parties, many of our colleagues were working. Alongside their core policing roles, they supported tens of thousands of passengers travelling across the network to various events. We are told the weekend was a success and a big part of that was down to your hard work and dedication ensuring that many could travel safely on our jurisdiction. So, a big thank you to you all.
This month we have received the very sad news that two of our former colleagues passed away. Jim Hutchinson and Terry Edwards both enjoyed long and distinguished careers in BTP and had only recently retired. We send our deepest condolences to their respective families, friends and colleagues. When colleagues die so soon after retiring, having served 30+ years, there's a massive impact on the people they leave behind, including those who worked with the officers. Please, if you are experiencing any difficulties relating to this news, reach out and speak to someone. There is support out there for anyone experiencing anxiety or upset. We will circulate any details we receive regarding dates and times of funerals should you wish to pay your respects.
Newly trained Federation Friends
This month we ran two week-long Federation conduct and performance courses during which 18 Federation representatives were trained in dealing with conduct and performance matters. The full list of trained Reps is available on our website (you will need your password). If ever you need support or advice please contact one of these Reps.
Meeting with the Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable
We have had numerous meetings this month including the National Negotiating meeting, our own Management Board meeting, a meeting with the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable and finally, we had a very productive and frank meeting with the leadership of PSD.
I will start by explaining what was raised with the Chief Constable and DCC. We spoke about the ongoing gross misconduct investigations that are impacting on trust and legitimacy, but I will go into more detail when I touch on PSD meeting.
We raised our concern at the lack of resources at various locations, where the minimum levels of resources are simply not there. There are clearly a number of issues impacting on frontline resourcing levels, but the Chief was very clear in her views. What should not be happening is the continued practice of 'red dotting' officers' rosters, which prevents them from taking leave or days off. Furthermore, event policing and the forming of certain squads should not be impacting on the number of frontline officers available to conduct our common purpose and routine responsibilities. There is recognition of the common practice that when an event requires resourcing, those resources generally come from those working in uniform. The Chief does not expect our frontline to be stripped of its resources leaving less than the minimum levels due to our commitments to event policing.
We welcome the Chief's approach, and we are told the DCC will be briefing this out to the senior command team. Not all locations are experiencing the same issues, but our advice to those location/hubs that are is to firstly report concerns immediately to your line managers; do not put yourself at risk, do not single-handedly try to cope and deal with all the issues. I appreciate this is easily said but if you are experiencing a regular lack of resources please contact your local Federation representative who will also contact FPRU and other managers in an attempt to resolve some of those issues. It is important that you also provide evidence of these events and abstractions to your Rep.
One of the most important items we discussed with the Chief Constable and DCC is the current financial climate. The senior command team is well aware that some officers and staff are experiencing financial hardship and the Chief is urgently looking at ways in which the Force can support officers and staff with that financial burden.
I know some will suggest a better pay deal could resolve some of those issues, however that decision now rests with the Home Secretary, and we await news of what, if any, pay increase will be awarded this year. Over and above that the Force is reviewing the entire expenses policy to determine where certain increases can be achieved. One that was recognised immediately was the 18p per mile for fuel where officers and staff are unable to get a train to work due to ongoing industrial action (at the time). We suggested to the Force this was not a reasonable sum, given rising fuel costs, and I am pleased to report that the force has agreed to now pay 45p per mile.
This increased sum is for those occasions where advanced authority has been given for an officer/staff to drive to work due to being unable to get in by any other means only. Hopefully the increase will help some of you. We await a response to other suggested amendments; hopefully the meal allowance will be increased as the current sum isn't suitable. Once we get any news, we will share that with you.
I can also confirm that the Chief is continuing her efforts to address on and off duty travel throughout our jurisdiction. She and ACC Gregory are in continued discussions with DfT and Train Operating Companies to hopefully achieve a national agreement on rail travel throughout the country. Again, once we hear any further news, we will share it with you.
While on the topic travel, you may have heard rumours about the issuing of Oyster cards to travel on TFL. The agreement with TFL is that all BTP officers can travel on London Transport and those who work in and around London will be issued with Oyster cards. Over the years officers outside of London may also have been issued with Oyster cards; if that's you, you will be asked to return it so it can be issued to London-based staff. No one is losing any entitlement to travel on TFL but unless you work in and around London you should not have possession of an Oyster card.
You may also remember that I reported that anyone travelling to the Police Treatment Centres would have the cost of travel reimbursed by the Federation. That has now been adopted by the Force and they will pay for the cost of one return journey to the PTC; again, a small gesture but one that will assist officers financially. As I have reported in several blogs, I am confident that BTP is doing all it can to support us all during this financial crisis. Hopefully more good news will be shared soon, and we will see changes that will hopefully help us all.
Job-Related Fitness Test
Also on the agenda was the JRFT, another subjective discussion we seem to be having on a regular basis. The latest update is that the Force has drafted a paper that seeks to address concerns about Police Officer Safety Training and the Job-Related Fitness Test. However, having raised our concerns about the current test, we are told that the JRFT will remain in place until such time as the Chief Constable knows what the alternative test is and how that looks for the Force. Nevertheless, what the Chief and DCC did agree with is the removal of TDR for those who fail the test. The Chief is happy to allow officers who fail their JRFT to still participate in their Police Officer Safety Training. If they are successful at passing the PST, the officer remains in ticket and can still operate on the frontline. That officer will then also be set an action plan to pass the JRFT whilst still remaining operational.
We see this as a positive step forward in assisting those who are being placed on TDR and are unable to conduct their PST. This decision will also hopefully assist with the level of available resources. This is another positive from the Chief/DCC and we look forward to this decision being implemented as soon as possible. What this doesn't mean is that those officers who are currently on TDR will be placed back on rosters. Everyone will firstly have to do the JRFT then, regardless of outcome, complete their PST. It is only after completing the PST that an officers could remain operational.
Police Officer conduct and performance
As we have all seen, there is an extraordinary amount of information shared by the police service, media outlets and commentators on social media about policing and the behaviour of individual officers. What I want to focus on in this blog is the coverage of those officers who breach standards of professional behaviour.
I don't deny there are some people who shouldn't be in policing, however I have raised our concerns with regards to some of the commentary that we are seeing from BTP. I have given my views on what I believe to be the impact of this negative commentary and I would seriously invite you all to think twice about what you write on social media regarding some of these individual cases.
For clarity the Force has a responsibility, in accordance with College of Policing guidelines, to report on these matters. They do so without hesitation because it demonstrates accountability and transparency and they do so in an attempt to rebuild public trust, which hopefully in turn gives victims and witnesses confidence in coming forward to report acts of wrongdoing. We the Federation understand that, and we appreciate that responsibility.
What follows is others joining in and creating a running commentary; this is where our concerns lay. You may think, with the best intentions, that you are supporting a positive message and you are helping to rebuild public trust and confidence, but some comments I have seen are harsh and very worrying. The events turn into headlines, the headlines turn into stories and on occasion, rumour and speculation are added. The media become interested and before long, the impact goes beyond the officer who has been dismissed and starts to directly affect families, friends and colleagues.
We must put these instances into context. They are disciplinary matters not criminal. Yes, the individual has done wrong. Yes, they have been found guilty in a misconduct process and yes, they have been dismissed from employment. But these acts are not criminal. If they were then BTP would and should deal with them as such, because that's why we all joined policing; to deal with criminals.
I genuinely have concerns about the damage being done in the current reporting of these events. So please in the future, before you add your thoughts and views to a BTP publication regarding misconduct matters, think twice about the potential damage your comments may have to the wider workforce, friends and family.
Meeting with PSD
From our conversations, PSD don't disagree with what I have raised, and I have been assured that future comms about misconduct matters will be checked and authorised by the DCC prior to being published on the Force website. However, it's not always an issue that sits at the Force's door. It's an issue for many who see fit to add to or join in with the commentary when there is simply no benefit. Ask yourself is it proportionate, is it timely and is it balanced?
I am pleased to report that PSD has been also assisting the Federation with their misconduct training. They have attended both courses this month and provided an input to all delegates, some of which has been around myth-busting, around reflective practice and the difference between public complaints and conduct.
We are told that the Trust Your Gut campaign is working well, and officers are feeling much more confident in challenging and reporting breaches of professional standards. I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that BTP Federation not only supports accused officers in various matters, but we also support victims, complainants, whistle blowers and witnesses in civil and conduct matters. If you do find yourself being a victim, complainant, whistle blower or witness you must contact us, or if in doubt contact the National Chair and talk it through. There is no conflict of interest; different Reps support different officers, and we all ensure confidentiality and full support and guidance, so please ask if you ever need that support.
National Negotiating Meeting
In other matters we have also had our National Negotiating Meeting (NNM) this month. We were informed that the Overnight Allowance Policy is currently under review. The paper sits with Pauline Okirie who will share a draft version with us sometime next month prior to it going to Chief Officer Group for consideration.
The Working Time Agreement (WTA) and the Substance Misuse Policy still requires further work to be carried out. The Federation has a meeting planned for next month to discuss the WTA and any suggested amendments. The Substance Misuse policy is still an outstanding matter that needs further negotiation. We have also spoke with the Chief Constable about this policy especially about the consensual aspect of random testing of officers and staff. We believe the only way forward to resolve this matter is to make the matter contractual or have it written into the Railway Transport and Safety Act. Whilst it remains simply a policy the consensual debate will role on and the lawful power to obtain a sample remains a stumbling block.
The Southeast Allowance, along with all other allowances, is being reviewed with a sympathetic eye around financial hardship. Proposals that are being considered will be back to the next Force Executive Board early next month.
You may remember that Stuart Cowan submitted a paper to the Force inviting them to consider introducing a bespoke Retirement Package. This is being given serious consideration by the Force as they agree there is a gap around information when officers retire after 30+ years. Work is being done to look at this and the issues it brings with going into new employment, CV writing, IT skills, interview techniques and financial support. We look forward to supporting the Force and including the National Association of Retired BTP Officers (NARBTPO).
You may have heard the news that the compulsory retirement age is being removed for all Home Office forces and therefore we have invited BTP, in line with parity, to consider removing it too. BTP were already aware of the decision made by the Home Office and will make a recommendation to the BTPA to support its removal.
As already described BTP has agreed to reimburse any cost of travel to the PTC. This is very much welcomed by the Federation, and we now wait for the agreement to be entered into the new expense policy along with the contested maternity allowance agreement.
The newly drafted policy regarding acting and temporary promotion duties is being finalised. There are a couple of inconsistencies that need ironing out but again this policy is near completion and should be circulated soon.
The new Police Covenant was also discussed, Racheal Etebar, Director of People and Culture, has been asked to sit on a working group with former Chief Constable, Andy Rhodes, along with representatives from CNC and MDP to produce a covenant suitable for non-Home Office forces. Racheal has already shared a slide show with us which sets out the areas the working group will look at. I am also pleased to report that it is agreed that one member of the Federation will sit on the working group to represent all three national Federations. Mark Marshallsay our own National General Secretary has been identified as that person. Good luck Mark.
Federation Management Board Meeting
This month we had our first meeting with the newly elected and returning Management Board members. The Board comprises to two representatives from each committee who have been elected as the Area Chairs and Area Secretaries. Again, there was a full agenda with updates from across all areas of the Force. In the main the biggest concerns are around resourcing, rosters and the continued practice of 'red dotting'.
We also discussed how we can assist officers who are experiencing financial hardship. Unlike PFEW, we will not increase Federation subscriptions this year. This is the second year where subs have remained the same and are one of the lowest throughout the country. I would like to remind you that as members you are able to apply for financial assistance through the Welfare Fund. The fund supports officers who are experiencing hardship and require immediate assistance, but loans and grants can't be used to pay off existing debts or loans. Find out more and download an application form here. All applications are considered by the Welfare Committee.
Also, on our website are the details of organisations and support groups who can assist, including some who are providing mortgage advice and support. You should all have received circulars this month about mortgage advice sessions and a pre-retirement seminar. These events are for your benefit so please join in where you can and seek advice and support where it's needed.
I am also pleased to report that we have three courses lined up with Karen Wiesenekker the Force Head of Strategic Inclusion and Diversity. Karen will be supporting the Federation with Diversity, Equality and Inclusion training so they can better represent all our members. This is part of our commitment to becoming a more diverse organisation.
Independent Review of the Federation
That brings me onto the independent review that we commissioned at the beginning of this year. I am told the review is completed, the draft report is written, and the recommendations have been compiled. We now await publication of the report which will firstly be shared with all Federation representatives at the Federation conference in September. They will decide what is a priority, what can be achieved fast time, what is and isn't affordable, and what the impact is on the future of the Federation and its members. The report will also be shared with the Chief Constable and the BTP Authority for their support and consideration.
It's an exciting time for all who are associated with the Federation. Over the last five or six years we have made changes and hopefully our solid foundations are set, ready to take on further changes to improve the service the Federation provides. I look forward to reading the final report and welcome any recommendations the panel proposes.
Quote of the Month:
"Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to believe in our own ability, to be a little more ambitious? I think the world would change."