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Meet BTP's Police Officer of the Year

3 August, 2018

British Transport
Police Federation
august 3, 2018

Meet BTP's Police Officer of the Year

Firearms Officer Ian Redpath was recently named BTPs Officer of the Year at the annual Make the Difference Awards.

Ian joined the service having been inspired, as a teenager, by his grandfather's friends who were retired officers. Twenty-eight years later and Ian's diverse career has taken him across the forced area in specialist roles including OSU and DVI.

"At school I had thought about doing something that might lead me towards the police or fire service," Ian said. "My grandad went fishing with retired police officers and I loved listening to their stories. After leaving school I did shop work and joined the Territorial Army, but you couldn't be in the reserves if you wanted to be a police officer so having made my mind up I left and started applying to the police."

Ian joined BTP in 1990 hoping to get a post in Scotland but began his career as PC based at Kings Cross where he worked alongside many other officers from Scotland ("at one point I think our team was about 80% Scottish). His role was mostly uniform work and a few CID attachments, but it was in the late 90s that Ian got involved in public order. He recalls deployed to the Bradford riots. He said: "I think they [local forces] were thankful of the fact there was a trained public order unit there to help them. We turned up, we looked professional and we did the job. I think we stayed there for another 48 hours to do patrols."

Twelve years after arriving in London Ian got the chance to move back to Scotland, taking his young family with him. He spent twelve weeks at training school to learn the specifics of Scottish legislation before joining a small team covering from the Berwick border to the Forth Rail Bridge to the Lothian border. Having become skills in basic search and public order, Ian was asked to submit an application to the OSU ("a fantastic opportunity to get out of night shifts"). He worked on football duties and public order patrols targeting anti-social behaviour and alcohol in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as conducting searches, including several 'royal searches' in Inverness and Aberdeen. It was a satisfying period for Ian and one which involved a lot of travel:

"You knew the stuff you were doing was supporting your colleagues on the shifts," he said. "At the time our supervisor was very big on football disorder. We would be all over Scotland and certainly pre-season there were cross-border operations too."

Changes at work at and at home took Ian and his family back down south and he began looking for new opportunities within BTP. Ahead of the 2012 Olympics, the force created a new firearms unit (the Specialist Response Unit, or SRU). Ian was accepted onto the training course which comprised two weeks initial training in Cheshire followed by ten weeks of tactical inputs. Having qualified as an AFO Ian joined the unit in May 2012.

Firearms isn't Ian's only specialism. While working in Edinburgh he was selected for a Disaster Victim Identification course. Having done all of his search qualifications he fitted the criteria, but quickly had his eyes opened. He explained: "After my training I realised it's not just about searching. If there is an incident, we can recover people quickly and respectfully and return them to their families. It's a sensitive and challenging job."

Between doing the course and moving back to London Ian had one deployment, to a light aircraft that had come down onto part of the railway. His main role was that of repatriation, meaning he didn't meet the affected family members. Subsequent deployments were markedly different.

On 26 June 2015, thirty-eight people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire on tourists staying in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse in Tunisia. Ian was part of the pan-London response for DVI, working with colleagues from the City of London and Metropolitan Police forces. Over the course of a week Ian was involved with two or three post mortems each day. He was also part of the DVI team for the Manchester Arena terrorist attack and the fire at Grenfell Tower in London.

"People might not realise but there were a lot of BTP officers deployed on search and recovery at Grenfell, from the day after the fire right up until just before Christmas. Everybody pulls together to get the job done. We have always had TRiM or it's forerunner made available to us and I have a process of detaching myself from what's in front of me; that's how I deal with it."

Reflecting on his career, Ian said: "I think that I was pretty naive when I came to London. I had lived in a part of the country that wasn't very diverse and arrived in Kings Cross when it was quite a rough area. There was lots of drugs and crime in the early 90s. I'm certainly more relaxed now than I was then and take in as much information as I can about what I'm seeing. I was never off the radio as a probationer!"

Considering how policing has changed, Ian remarked on the response from the public. "When I first joined people were pleased to see us," he said. "That's the case now too, even more so now, but there's not enough of us about. We still struggle to make ourselves visible for the public and you still need to take yourself out of public view to do your paperwork."

"When I first started as an AFO people were shocked to see me and not happy about it but in light of what London, in particular, has been subjected to people are happier to see firearms officers. I certainly have a lot more people coming up to say thank you for the job we do. Tourists are always looking for a photo with a firearms officer and kids give us a wave - if the kids are comfortable they know they can come to us for help."

"Being part of a national force, I have worked with excellent police officers up and down the country. I think the job itself has changed massively and more people seem to be in it for the short term now, but I'm proud to be a BTP officer and wouldn't discourage anyone from joining the police service."