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Stuart Cowan
Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation

Stuart posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.

British Transport
Police Federation
November 2023

Chairman's Blog


Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with local Reps lately or contacted us directly. Whether it's to share something you're concerned about or to highlight a colleague's good work or a brilliant court result, we appreciate hearing from you.

Here's a snapshot of some of what we have been doing on your behalf in recent weeks:

Op Overhand

As Op Overhand continues so do the challenges to the Force, and to each of you out there, facing short notice cancelled rest days, extended shifts and in many cases, significant disruption to your personal circumstances. It's clear that everyone in the Force has put great effort into this operation but what's also clear is that the is learning to be taken from this that will allow us to improve.

We need to ensure our officers' welfare, health and safety are fully considered along with strong and early communication with our colleagues, and when an officer requires feedback, they must have a rationale to the decision. Those in policing understand that they may receive an answer they don't want at times, but if it's explained properly and honestly then there can be a greater acceptance. I'd like to place on record our thanks to Supt Mark Lawrie whose involvement ensured a pragmatic and balanced approach.

I would encourage our leaders at a local level to take this same view. I was appalled to hear of an example in Scotland where an officer had their request for a rest day to be re-instated to allow them to attend a significant personal event refused by their supervisor, incorrectly citing direction from Gold as to the reason why. Local supervision and leaders should have the courage to support officers in situations like this.

DCC/PSD Meeting

We recently took part in our third meeting of the year with our Deputy Chief Constable, Alistair Sutherland and head of PSD, Detective Superintendent Peter Fulton. It may only be the third meeting, but they have quickly become invaluable to our reps. Another strong turnout resulted in some positive communications around matters such as vetting, conduct, training and standards.

Whilst we might not always agree with one another - and we reserve the right to challenge PSD and hold them and the Force to account - it is useful to try to understand each other's perspective. One area we all agree on is our commitment to reduce the number of conduct related issues that come to our attention. No area wants this, and each one of us has a part to play. Ultimately, we all want PSD to have no work on and none of us want ourselves, or our colleagues to have to face investigation.

One way we can do this is through education; people do make mistakes. This happens all over society and if the matter can be resolved through education, then it should be. It's also important that if something does have to be investigated then it's done so in a timely, respectful, and communicative manner.

We left the meeting with several actions and a better understanding on decision-making in the vetting process, which we will factor into our Reps training. We are grateful to Mr Sutherland for his commitment to look into some individual cases Reps raised with him directly on the day.

Female Police Association

I recently enjoyed a meeting with our FPA where we discussed ways in which we can continue to work together positively, particularly on the issues we have in common. We discussed how the Federation can support the FPA but also spent time discussing subjects such as VAWG and the gender imbalance within the Federation and ways we can look to change that.

As with anything, there are no quick fixes but as a Federation we are committed to working with colleagues and benefiting from their views and experiences as we continue to evolve, so I'm sure this will be the first of many meetings. With thanks to Michelle Pidgen, Lisa Scott Savage and Gemma Pettman from the Federation and Ritu Sharma and Nicola Outen from the FPA for their commitment to this.

Maternity Back Pay

Frustratingly, we are still waiting on a definitive answer around maternity back pay with London Allowance. We believe that the right and proper thing to do is match our peers in the Met and the City of London who have received back pay to the year 2015, whilst our force believe they should only pay back to 2019.

It's pleasing that the BTPA agree with our view, and we thank them for that. The matter is currently being sent to the Treasury and we await their decision. We have no timescale for this but when we do so we will ensure that this is communicated out.

Station Visits

A few weeks ago, myself, our treasurer Pete Kingham, and D Division General Secretary John Paul O'Kane attended our offices in Aberdeen and Inverness and got the opportunity to speak to our members based in these locations. It never ceases to amaze me that despite constant challenges in isolated areas, our cops continue to work to the best of their abilities and do so with such enthusiasm.

Common themes over both stations included lone working in significant isolated areas, vehicle issues, and concerns over rosters and annual leave implementation for next year. John Paul will work with those officers and the divisional SLT to look to solve issues and allay any concerns.

I'd like to thank colleagues for their time and hospitality. It's always good to speak to those who can understand my accent with a little more ease!

Victim Support

Lastly, there seems to be a myth that the Federation exists to support members who may face conduct issues. This isn't accurate. Our role covers health and safety, performance, welfare, and wellbeing. Our reps have recently or will shortly receive training on topics including neurodiversity, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, menopause, inclusion, equality and diversity, and social media.

One area in which I'm particularly keen to emphasis Federation assistance is victim support.

We know that we have members within the force who have been courageous enough to come forward as a victim of crime. We are also here to support you and will do so with confidentiality and compassion. You don't necessarily have to have a rep from within your area; if you are more comfortable having a rep out of area then this can be facilitated. The most important thing is that you receive the support that you deserve, and we are working with other departments in the Force to ensure you know who to approach, how to do so and the support we can provide in different circumstances.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog. I will be in touch again before the festive period.

All the best
Stu

Did you know... As a member of the Federation, you can access discounts from big-name brands and local businesses via our perks platform, PerkJam. Right now, there are offers including 20% of Fitbit devices, 20% off at The Body Shop and discounted tickets for attractions and theme parks. Visit our Perkjam site for more information and you might find your Christmas shopping budget stretches that bit further.

Stuart Cowan
Chair, BTP Federation


Contact the Federation
Tel: 0208 761 8071
Email: info@btpfed.co.uk
Web: www.btpolfed.org.uk