Chair's Blog for Feb



Welcome to the February blog, I hope that this finds everyone well, in what has been another challenging month for policing.


I'm sure many of us read with utter contempt the reports in the media last week around the rumoured 3.5% recommended pay increase for many, including police officers.


Is this a fair amount? Does this reflect on the role we carry out and the dangers that come with it? Does this reflect on the challenges that we face and the trauma that we deal with? Does this reflect on the cost of living?

Absolutely not.

It's yet another kick in the gut towards the officers who deserve fair pay. Like everyone else we need to be able to make ends meet, heat our houses and put food on the table and clothes on our children's backs. We wonder why we have a retention problem in policing. The starting point to address retention is it to look at how we are treated by way of pay and there is no doubt that the Government plays on the fact that we currently don't have the right to industrial action - something that so many others have.

I am writing to the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP, and to the British Transport Police Authority, encouraging them to show that they value the work that we do by awarding us a pay increase that shows our worth.

Joint Central Committee

JCC allows us the opportunity to speak to the Chief Constable, alongside our friends in TSSA and the Superintendents Association, and raise concerns or highlight emerging issues. This month, two of the issues we raised on your behalf were Op Hampshire and travelling on warrant cards.

It's been very disappointing to hear about instances where it appears the court system isn't considering BTP officers when Op Hampshire is applicable. We have heard of occasions where our officers have been assaulted and faced a lengthy process through the court system. Meanwhile colleagues in Home Office forces, having been assaulted in the same geographical areas - sometime after our colleagues - have been dealt with via Op Hampshire considerably faster. This isn't about 'us against them'. This is about ensuring that we are treated in the exact same fashion as Home Office forces.

It was pleasing to hear the Chief shares our frustrations around this. Can I ask that if you have suffered in this way that you contact your local rep and make them aware as we are looking to compile a list of cases and progress this matter.

Another real source of frustration is the ever-increasing issue surrounding rail staff challenging officers who are on duty and travelling on their warrant card. We must be clear, if you are on duty you absolutely can use your warrant card as means of travel. Sadly, some rail staff are under the impression that this isn't allowed and may advise you that they have comms to state that a warrant card isn't sufficient. Please remain courteous and advise the rail staff that you are on duty and are permitted to travel.

Again, it was pleasing to have the support of the Chief Constable around this and as with Op Hampshire, in order for us to progress this with the industry, can I ask that you make your rep aware if this has happened to you, proving brief details to allow us to collate all examples.

Northwick Park

Thanks to feedback from our members, we became aware of yet more issues at Northwick Park. For the majority of you who have stayed there at some point you'll be aware of the facilities and that they often leave a lot to be desired.

Along with the Federation Deputy General Secretary, Paul Miller, I attended Northwick Park to inspect the two blocks that host our students. To gain the full Northwick Park experience we both stayed overnight. Spending a bit of time there allowed us to speak to students who were present and see what the conditions are like for ourselves.

We were shown a video of cockroaches in the kitchens and observed ourselves things like insects running along the kitchen floors. Unfortunately for me my bedding was covered in dirt and body hairs meaning that I had to sleep on top of a towel. Luckily, I was only staying for one night; I can't imagine having to stay there for a prolonged period.

In my view Northwick Park isn't fit for purpose and we shouldn't be sending our officers there. As a force we demand high standards from our officers, it's only right and proper that the force replicate those high standards when hosting our officers.

On my return from Northwick Park, I wrote to the Chief Constable with my findings and with my view that Northwick Park isn't a fit or safe place for our officers. I'm pleased to say that the Force recognises the challenges that come with Northwick Park, it is considering its options and looking to relocate in the very near future. This is something that the Federation welcomes, and we would like to place on record our thanks to the Force, and in particular Supt Horton and the team at L&D who have been working tirelessly to address this issue and seek a venue that is more suitable.

Substance Misuse Policy

We have recently become aware of comments on Yammer, seeking views on being in a fit state to work and around random testing to establish if someone is indeed fit to be at work.

We believe that this has arisen due to previous instances where officers have been approached and instructed to take a random test, and if they have refused, they have been threatened with a form of disciplinary action.

We do not support this.

We must be clear though; we don't want anyone in the workplace who is under the influence of drink or drugs. That can put them, our colleagues and the public at risk of harm which is unacceptable. What we can accept is intelligence that leads to a testing with cause; if there is evidence that someone isn't in a fit state then we need to ensure safety and we support this.

What we don't support is random testing where refusal to take a random test leads to threats of discipline. Should an officer agree to a random test then that is their prerogative, they can do so. But currently the Force cannot enforce discipline at the refusal of a random test. We have been in discussion with the Force over the last year and both parties have provided their views. We had a meeting late last year with BTPA in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough on our 'Failure to Agree' with the Force. Simply put, we believe that to enforce this would require a change of contract for our officers.

When we obtain an outcome around this issue I will update you all.

Neurodiversity Training

We have in the last week provided 14 more Fed reps from around the Force with Neurodiversity Awareness Training. It's so important that we can support those within our organisation who are neurodivergent but it's equally important that we educate and support those who work alongside colleagues who are neurodivergent. Equally and Diversity were one of the key strategies within our recent independent review and it's pleasing to see how important those who participated in the training considered it to be.

Speaking personally, it's been a real eye opener for me and while I'm far from an expert in the matter it's given me a greater awareness of neurodiversity. We are progressing in the right direction with this, but there is more work to be done.

Police Treatment Centres

And finally, earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the Police Treatment Centre (PTC) at Harrogate to see the fabulous facilities that are on offer there for those members who sign up. Both the physical and mental health facilities at the PTC are state of the art and go such a long way to getting our officers back on duty, often ahead of schedule.

I have spoken to many of our members who have made use of the facilities at both Harrogate and Auchterarder and there isn't one person who doesn't speak in glowing terms about them. There is a real sense of calm around the place, and you are surrounded by experts in the field who all have the same goal - to assist you in returning to a place that you want to be.

I'd encourage anyone who hasn't signed up to the PTC to please consider doing so. The donation is set at £1.80 per week and you can sign up here.

In bringing this month's blog to a close I will thank you all for your continued work and support of the Federation. It's important to me that the Federation continues to evolve and that we have a strong attachment to our members. If you think that there is something that the Federation should be aware of then please get in touch with your local reps.

I plan to attend as many parts of the Force as possible in the year ahead to allow you the opportunity to speak to your local reps and Federation Executive - when we do attend then I'd encourage you all to participate. It's important you have the opportunity to air your views and any concerns that you may have.

Until the next time.

All the best

Did you know...? There is a charity that works to ease the financial pressures for police families who are bringing up children in the face of life-changing circumstances? Circumstances that could involve the death of the police donor parent (or their partner) or where the police donor takes early medical retirement?

The charity is The Police Children's Charity and it also provides financial assistance to support the mental health and wellbeing of the children of serving police donors.

It costs just 35p per week to support the charity but the help you could get in times of need is invaluable. Find out more at www.thepolicechildrenscharity.org

Stuart Cowan, BTP Federation Chair