Chairman's Blog for February

Colleagues, here is the Federation blog for February 2022; a busy month for many and one that I am struggling to report on if I am honest, due to more negativity surrounding policing. As police officers we should all be very proud of the service we provide. We all know of so many positive stories during our time in this service, how thousands of people who have joined policing to support the vulnerable, how we do our bit for our communities, how we separate good from evil, and how we make a difference for so many. Every day officers turn up and do exactly that, with courage, tenacity, and integrity. So why I am struggling, is because we don't hear about these stories in the media, on the daily news bulletins, from our politicians who claim to have our backs and from some of our illustrious leaders.

Sadly, there seems to be an overwhelming imbalance. Certain media outlets, certain politicians and certain senior police personnel are driving the same rhetoric about the negative headlines in policing, police officers and their behaviour. There is a suggested lack of trust and confidence in our performance and behaviour. Policing is under attack. As one officer described it to me recently, "it's not what it was, where's the acceptance we keep people safe?" These are comments I hear from colleagues and on social media daily.

We recruit from our communities and to a degree, represent society. Sadly, in society there are racists, misogynists and bullies, some hold views and behave in a way that is unacceptable, disgusting and sometimes gut wrenching. We, as police officers, must police those same people and their behaviour; we have to investigate, process and where appropriate, prosecute. That certainly is a good thing, and if it's not acceptable in society then it certainly isn't acceptable or tolerable in the police service. There is no place for anyone in policing to act in a racist, misogynistic, homophobic or any other inappropriate way. They are damaging the reputation of the thousands of officers who work so hard to bring about change.

I reported in my November blog how we must accept that the culture in policing needs to change and my closing message then was: 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.

So, my message to all those thousands of police officers who at the moment are not grabbing the media's attention, who are working extremely hard to keep society safe, making a difference to so many lives and who are separating good from evil, you are all leaders. We can all play our part to rid policing of those who don't deserve to wear the uniform, who see fit to act in a way that we wouldn't hesitate to deal with when out and about on our beat. Policing doesn't need them.

Some may ask, what the Federation is doing to address this issue and you would be right to ask that question. Firstly, we have placed ourselves under review and one of our priorities is to identify ways we can better support a more diverse workforce. Many officers believe we only support those accused of wrongdoing and are not aware that we also support complainants, victims and whistle blowers. Be reassured, there are some accused officers that this Federation didn't support in the past and there will be some we won't support in the future.

This Federation is fully aware of the negative impact on policing resulting from the actions and behaviours of certain individuals. We are not afraid of managing officers' expectations and telling them they should consider their options and look elsewhere for employment, whilst still maintaining a level of support for those who face false allegations, those who make mistakes and face misconduct proceedings and those who are struggling with their performance, their health, their finances, their family, and their wellbeing.

We all enjoy reading the positives about policing - and there are many - but when the negatives overshadow everything you do so well then, it's time to stand up and be counted. We need to play our part as police officers, as leaders and as decent people.

That brings me to the recent publication issued by DCC Sutherland launching the Force's new "Trust your Gut" and "Speak Up" campaign, which has the full support of this Federation. We all know the standards of professional behaviour and what is expected of police officers. We know we are all under scrutiny, especially by the media and the public. What we also know is that none of us want to work alongside officers who behave inappropriately. Those officers need to feel uncomfortable in the workplace; we all should be hostile towards those who damage our good reputation.

Furthermore, we all need to have the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour when we see it. I am not suggesting everything should be reported immediately to PSD; an early and quick intervention, words of guidance, a tap on the shoulder or a sharp challenge to warn someone they may be slipping into a culture or behaviour that could result in misconduct, could nip problems in the bud. We are all professional, we certainly know the difference between right and wrong, we are brave enough to deal with society's issues so should have the confidence and courage to deal with internal matters, regardless of rank. If all else fails report it to your local Federation rep, get us involved and potentially we can bring a stop to certain behaviour and prevent matters escalating. We can also inform officers, with confidence, that there is no place for them in policing if they are crossing the line. Let's get back to celebrating and praising our courageous, our hard-working dedicated officers and let's turn this tide of negativity because there are thousands of you doing an absolutely fantastic job day in day out.

Awards of Excellence

While talking of celebrating and praising, a quick reminder that the Federation Awards of Excellence are open for nominations. You are all invited to nominate colleagues you believe are deserving of an award. This can be anything that fits the descriptive of 'excellence'. Our officers have a diverse workload and being brave and arresting suspects isn't the only task that fits the excellence criteria. So please, if you know of anyone or any group of officers deserving of recognition please put in a nomination.

The closing date is Friday 11 March, after which a panel of seven Reps from across the country will meet to determine the winners. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Cardiff this September. This is a great opportunity to showcase BTP, but more importantly to showcase what you, the frontline officers, do day in day out and which doesn't always make headline news. I wish all the nominees the best of luck.

Federation review

I mentioned in my introduction, that BTP Federation is under review, and you have been invited by the independent panel overseeing it to participate in a member survey. So far, one in five officers have participated and the survey remains open for further input. This is your opportunity to bring about change in your Federation, your opportunity to share your thoughts and opinions whilst also entering into a free prize draw. The closing date for the review survey is Tuesday 15 March, so if you haven't completed it yet please do so. If you haven't received the survey link, firstly check your email junk folder and if it's not there then please contact the Federation office (info@btpfed.co.uk). Good luck to all those who are entered into the draw.

PSD Investigators course

I recently attended a PSD investigators course as an observer. It was pleasing to see some extra resources/faces who have recently been employed to work in PSD and hopefully reduce the time scale of some of BTP's investigations. I am concerned what message this sends about the direction of travel for BTP (excuse the pun) but I will touch on that later in this blog.

The course was very insightful, detailed and conducted by Mr John Beggs QC of Serjeants Chambers who many of you may have heard of. I could see from all those who attended that they were interested and engaged by Mr Beggs, who didn't drive the message of "lets hire them and then let's fire them". It was a well-balanced course that explored fairness, abuse of power, transparency, natural justice, best evidence and processes. I was truly grateful for the insight and understanding of how our BTP PSD investigators are developing their skills to be better, fair and professional investigators.

Going back to the topic of extra resources, on one hand it is a positive if it reduces the time it takes to conduct certain investigations that on occasion prevent officers from further development. Yes, it's true, you can still develop after a PSD investigation; not all allegations made against police officers are true and factual. However, while we see more resources in PSD there are no extra resources in BTP's Occupational Health department, which is a worry and is, in our view, a priority.

I had two opportunities to speak with the Chief Constable this month and this was one of the points that I raised. I am reassured BTP is continuing to explore improvements and expansion in the welfare and wellbeing side of business. OH advisors, I am told, are a rare commodity. It's a very competitive market and the private sector provides more lucrative contracts than the public sector. Nonetheless BTP continue to reassure me that they are exploring ways to improve wellbeing for BTP officers and staff.

The Force continues consider options for health cover for all in BTP. Furthermore, the Force now has 244-line managers trained in mental health first aid and this is complemented by 60 trained peer support champions who have completed a course with Oscar Kilo. Once the Federation elections are completed, we are also looking to get our Federation reps trained on the same course, supporting the Force Peer Support champions. All this information can be found on the Force Wellbeing Hub.

Drug and Alcohol policy

Whilst on the wellbeing front, we have received reports that BTP has been turning up at various locations conducting random drug and alcohol testing. The first question being asked is: Can BTP do such tests? The answer is simply yes, they can. We are in a disciplined service and there are standards of professional behaviour that we all must follow. If you have a genuine reason for declining the test you can do so, but don't be surprised if you are asked to explain why you have refused, obviously without fear of repercussions. You cannot be disciplined if you have a genuine reason to not participate and any suggestion of discipline by PSD investigators will be strongly challenged by the Federation.

That said, anyone who is experiencing problems with drink or drugs or is in the grip of addiction, must speak out, seek support and get the required help. Avoiding these types of tests because you are under the influence will result in disciplinary, or at worst, criminal investigation. Anyone ignoring this advice and refusing to accept that they have a problem is blatantly putting themselves and others at risk and run a very high possibility of not being supported by this Federation. Do the right thing and seek support if you need it.

Meeting with the Chief Constable

Other updates from our meeting with the Chief Constable include that the JRFT is still being considered. The Chief accepts that the practice of placing officers on TDR when they fail the JRFT is a practice causing officers anxiety. It is also part of the problem of there being limited resources in certain areas and the additional impact TDR has on someone's wellbeing. The Chief also recognises that this JRFT is not the best, but sadly it is all we have at the moment and until a new test is designed and agreed the Chief believes as a Force, we need to continue testing officers' standard of fitness.

As a result of this discussion, the Chief is asking the Force to explore what, if anything, can be achieved by removing the TDR situation, allowing officers to still conduct their Police Officer Safety Training when required, which in turn will assist retaining resources on the frontline. The Chief is also considering what action can be taken in the future if any officers repeatedly or consistently fail the JRFT. This is something we are continuously monitoring.

I am sorry there is no definitive conclusion to this particular concern, which has been on the agenda for more than 16 months. We are now told the Force plans to conduct a survey about the JRFT and we have some reservations. A young lightweight 21-year-old Nobby Goodband is certainly going to have a different view and opinions to that of 57-year-old, overweight Nobby Goodband who has dodgy knees, dubious lung and heart issues, and a brain which may not function as well as in his younger years. We are not sure what this survey will achieve other than identify there are varying views on fitness levels in policing.

We have also raised concerns regarding the current instruction around annual leave and RDIL. Your annual leave is contractual and therefore there is an obligation on BTP to allow you to take your leave or pay you if, due to exceptional circumstances, you have been unable to take your leave. There can be no policy that instructs "use it or lose it" unless BTP can show an officer has deliberately avoided taking their annual leave and they are attempting to bank for a big pay day departure on their retirement.

I reassured the Chief Constable that those complaining about leave are officers who genuinely are finding it difficult to take leave due to operational reasons or simply the computer says "no". The Chief Constable has instructed a review of the annual leave situation at or before the 6-month point since the instruction to reduce balances was issued. The Chief wants to determine if there has been a change and if officers' balances have reduced as instructed back in 2021. Once a review has been conducted the Chief will report back to all staff associations.

It is still vitally important that we all recognise and accept that we need to take time off work, we need to rest and recuperate, we need to take time out for our families, and we need to look after number one. You just can't keep going without time off, it's a serious welfare issue and becomes a threat to your health and wellbeing. So, where possible get that leave booked and record any blockers with your local reps. Any evidence supporting your attempts of taking leave that have been blocked need to be reported immediately.

The Force is also undertaking a review of management layers and spans of command within BTP. It will make recommendations on the actions required for the future effectiveness and efficiency of BTP. The review intends to examine the current layers of management for both officers and staff up to and including C/Supt and equivalent. It will also make comparisons with structures and learning of other police forces and front-line public sector organisations. This is part of the "Force on the Move" and "One BTP" agenda. There are some obvious presumed concerns regarding such reviews, and we have raised a couple especially regarding identifying and developing our own people before considering external recruitment, which the Chief supports. Obviously, it is too early to comment or make observations about this review but it's a plan we will keep a close eye on.

For those who are not aware, there is a new boot policy in place which we have been consulted on. The new policy is that you no longer have to purchase boots and claim back the cost of an allowance of £50 or less. BTP are now going to supply boots at an increased cost of over £100. The new boots will be an upgrade to a boot retailing at about £155. This entitlement will be every 2 years.

We also welcome the news regarding paternity leave and miscarriage leave that was announced at the start of February this year. Both policy changes are appreciated, despite the Force not entering the national negotiation process through the NNM. This Federation submitted a paper this time last year requesting an extension to paternity leave, but it was declined on the basis that it steps outside of parity with our Home Office colleagues and it would have to be an instruction or direction of travel from the NPCC. Now we have a new Chief, we witness a new way of thinking and the decision to extend paternity and introduce miscarriage leave has now been agreed. This is obviously great news and as stated we welcome the changes, however a word of caution. This Federation - and I suspect all staff associations - have not yet seen either policy, they have not been negotiated and signed off as changes to your terms and conditions, therefore we don't know what the small print states. We have our next NNM in the first week of March and we will hopefully get sight of these policies.

As in this case, if you have any ideas or thoughts on improving our terms and conditions, the new Chief is keen to encourage officers to be bold and brave and raise those thoughts with the Force and/or I would suggest with the Federation. What we don't want however is the Force introducing new conditions of service without following due process. On this particular occasion it was a positive move, which we will clearly embrace and welcome once we see the fine grain detail written in the policies.

Federation elections

The first week of March is the final week of the national elections for Federation representatives from across the Force. Some committees have already completed their process with Reps standing unopposed but in other areas the process is ongoing. If you haven't voted yet, please do so. The following Committees are still open to elections: Pennines West, Wales and Midland, B Division East, B Division South Sergeant and Inspectors and TFL Sergeant and Inspectors. All committee members will be announced mid-March 2022. Good luck to everyone standing and thank you to those that have voted and participated.

Police Treatment Centres

Finally, the Police Treatment Centres charity is aware that there is a strong "transfer market" between forces and the frequency of officers transferring between forces has increased. There have been a number of enquiries from officers who are not aware that their Police Treatment Centre and St George's Police Children Trust donations do not follow them from force to force. If you are member thinking of transferring or a transferee thinking you are a member of the PTC or St George's then you need to check your payslips and apply to donate in your new force via the pay department and Federations. Your donations sadly do not follow you from force to force and not only is the charity missing out, but you may miss out on valuable treatment if you don't check that you are still a donor.

Quote of the Month:
"The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better."