Chair's Blog for October



Welcome to this month's blog. I hope that you are all as well as can be in what has, yet again another busy month within the Force.

War in Israel and Gaza

It is with a heavy heart that I start this blog by referencing yet another war in this world. I am sure many of us have been watching from afar, seeing so many lives lost and so much heartbreak faced. We know that this impacts several of you more directly as some of those currently suffering in Israel and Gaza are your friends and family. The thoughts of this Federation are with you all and we pray that the immediate suffering stops as a matter of urgency.

If you are affected and feel that you would benefit from speaking to someone then please reach out to us or your line manager. If you would rather speak to someone unconnected with work, Samaritans listening service is available at any time and the NHS Mental Health Helpline is open 24/7 too.

From a Force point of view, Op Overhand is well underway and continues to bring its challenges. Even as I type this, the demand on policing and ensuring the safety of our colleagues and the travelling community is increasing and evolving daily. I'm immensely proud of all my colleagues who have changed shifts and duties at short notice to help with this operation.

The Federation sits on the daily briefings and the professionalism and way many of you assist really is a credit to the Force. As this matter continues to progress, we will of course keep you updated as best we can.

Throughout Op Overhand the Force has been mindful of the welfare of our officers which we are grateful for, and we encourage this to be continued. We understand that there are now short notice changes. This hasn't been done lightly and as a Federation we believe that these are exceptional circumstances and understand why this decision has been taken. We continue to communicate with the Force to ensure these decisions comply with Health & Safety and welfare considerations and that you, our members are fully communicated with.

Officer NX121

I am sure you will have seen the decision to release the name of officer NX121 in January 2023. In our view, this is wrong.

It really does raise alarm bells amongst the police community about what support mechanisms are in place. Specialist firearms officers up and down the country will be feeling this right now and wondering why they should put themselves at extra risk for no extra support. We know that every action has a reaction and it's my sincere hope that on 30 January, when the details of NX21 are released that we aren't having more difficult conversations about support is in place for police officers.

This will undoubtedly, and understandably, raise questions around why anyone would join a Firearms unit where you will have these added pressures and potentially lesser support. This won't have a positive outcome in terms of recruitment and retention and this decision made in the courts will make things more difficult for those in policing.

Meeting with Rail Minister

Earlier in the month myself and your General Secretary, Mark Marshallsay received an invite to attend the offices of the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman, MP. He was hosting a meeting to consider how we can best support those who regularly respond to those whose lives have ended on the railway. Also invited were representatives from the Samaritans, Network Rail, RTM, TSSA and others.

I was able to discuss the experiences of our officers and what we go through when dealing with a fatality, from the initial radio call to passing sympathy messages and mortuary visits. The Rail Minister was very clear that he wants to do more to support those of you who have to respond and I look forward to seeing productive plans be implemented which can positively help our members.

Station Visits

Since my last blog we were able to attend our Exeter office where our Treasurer, Pete Kingham and Mark Marshallsay spent time getting an understanding of what it is like to work in that area. They found their time there incredibly insightful, and it was really useful to hear some of the good - and some of the frustrating - things that happen in the area.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to attend Truro due to the officers stationed there having last minute roster change to deal with football at Plymouth the next day, but we look forward to meeting them in the near future.

It's important that the Force ensures those who work in isolated areas don't feel isolated and are treated as equally as everyone else within BTP. This isn't exclusive to the office in Truro and I'm looking forward to attending other isolated officers in the next month as we spend time in Inverness and Aberdeen, where my Scottish dialect should be far easier to understand!

As stated previously, I plan to attend as many offices as possible in my time as the chair of this Federation and have already visited several locations. If you feel like your office would benefit from a visit from the National Executive, then please email info@btpfed.co.uk and we can look to facilitate that.

Sikh Police Association

On 16 October our treasurer, Pete Kingham, attended the launch of the BTP Sikh Police Association in Birmingham. It's really important that all staff associations work together, and I firmly believe that we can all help each other. Our Federation was proud to support this event and we look forward to growing these relations as we move forward.

Pete said "This is the first time that I've been to an event with the Sikh community and what a wonderful day I had. The welcome and patience I received as I was educated in Sikh beliefs is something that will stay with me, and I look forward to continuing relations."

Layers and Spans review

On to some Force matters and following a meeting held with C Division Inspectors, representations have been made to the Layers & Spans team and as a result, the consultation period for Inspectors to vote on the roster and opt in or out of On Call, has been extended by for two weeks.

There are for several reasons for this, but mainly to allow the Force to share with those affected, terms of reference regarding what on call means to them. I would encourage Inspectors to raise any more specific or isolated issues with the L&S Team. Feeback forms are available for this, or the team are quite prepared to talk with you on a one-to-one basis. Please take this opportunity to make your views known and shape the roster moving forward.

Annual Leave 2024

Some months ago, it was communicated that there would be a different method for requesting annual leave during next year's Notting Hill Carnival and New Year's Eve.

There has been some discussion that there is a ban on leave for these events, but our understanding is that this is not the case; leave can still be requested during the restricted periods however the process has changed to ensure greater governance. The Force wants to ensure there are sufficient numbers in place to avoid any more cancelled rest days than is absolutely necessary. We would encourage everyone who does wish for leave in these impacted periods to submit the forms as necessary.

What is frustrating for all of us is that notice went out for this in August and at the time of typing this blog, it seems we are no further forward with communication going out.

It is imperative that we have clear communications with our officers. We are aware that officers are looking to book leave and family holidays for next year. Our time off and holidays are sacred and I am fully aware that the longer issues like this are left then the harder it is for people to book those important family holidays.

We are also aware that such lengthy restricted periods are not only unhelpful and difficult to manage but also gives our members who have children in education a much shorter window when schools are off to plan things. To make this more palatable I have made representation to the Force requesting their support for officers within BTP being allowed to book holidays in term time without the risk of any form of penalty from the education authorities.

When we get any update on above, we will make you aware.

On this note I would like to wish you farewell. Thanks for all you continue to do in these challenging times and please stay safe.

Until the next time.
All the best

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Stuart Cowan
Chair, BTP Federation