Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Colleagues, here is the blog for February 2020. I hope you find these updates valuable; if there are topics you would like me to cover in future posts, please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
BTP Authority Meeting This month I attended the BTP Authority meeting at FHQ Camden and an interesting meeting it was indeed. Amongst the topics discussed were counter terrorism, county lines, Taser, custody and the staff survey.
It is fair to say that some members of the Authority were not overwhelmed by the numbers of officers and staff who had participated in the most recent staff survey and they explored between them and the Force the reasons why the numbers were so low, from survey fatigue, to poor communications and limited access to computers/IT. I think you already know my views, but it was interesting to see similar questions being asked by certain Authority members. The Force will deliver further information to the Authority at their March meeting in Cardiff. Let's hope we receive the same level of detail going forward and you receive a full breakdown of the results and a position statement from the Force on what happens next.
You will remember after the first staff survey the Force gave a commitment to remove the so called "hindrance stressors". It won't come as a surprise to many that hindrance stressors had gone up in numbers over the last two years, whether they are new ones or existing hindrances. This has to be a concern for the Force bearing in mind the work that has been done to date to remove some of the known issues.
The Authority also asked me for my views regarding the issue of Taser. I reiterated that we, the BTP Federation, support Taser becoming part of police officers' PPE. Nevertheless, to achieve this we have to very careful regarding the standards required to carry Taser, especially fitness levels, colour blindness and eyesight. If Taser is to become part of your PPE, any standards required to carry such shouldn't impact on the Force being able to recruit officers from all communities, including those wearing spectacles or those that have a certain level of fitness. If the current standards were to remain in place, then we will need to have further discussions with the Force and potentially a different opinion because a diverse workforce is better than a workforce that doesn't represent society. We are told the College of Policing is exploring the wider issue of Taser and what the future holds.
Currently BTP has 669 devices but only 450 are with frontline non-firearms officers. Clearly, we would like that to be much higher. The Force is supportive of issuing Taser to all those officers wanting to be trained and the immediate plan is to roll out an additional 282 devices. They have also conducted a second Taser survey in an attempt to establish how many officers want to carry Taser, which BTP locations are the priority locations and the cost of issuing the device to a wider audience.
Spending time with the IOPC
Also this month, I had the privilege of meeting with Mr Michael Lockwood the Director General of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). As some of you may remember I have openly criticised the IOPC on several occasions mainly regarding the length of time certain investigations take, but also their decision-making process regarding misconduct vs criminal cases.
I was grateful to meet with Mr Lockwood and for the opportunity to share my views, ideas and concerns. I believe the meeting was a positive one. I was encouraged by Mr Lockwood's vision and ideas, especially in respect of learning from our mistakes rather than attempting to apportion blame on every day minor matters.
Obviously the proof will be in the pudding and the delivery over the next few months, especially the new misconduct regulations. We do have some concerns about some parts of these new regulations, especially with them suggesting that police officers will be compelled to speak to the IOPC.
New misconduct regulations
While on this topic, I want to reassure you that BTP are NOT yet working with the new conduct regulations. We have not yet seen the BTP Authority's draft of the new regulations and we have had no consultation regarding such. What I can report is that 17 Federation Representatives are this week visiting York PSD where they will receive a basic input into the new regulations and what they mean to serving police officers. Once we know and understand the basics, we will develop our own training package and train those Reps that represent you when and if you face misconduct proceedings.
I have already mentioned that we welcome many parts of the new regulations as they are designed to achieve the intentions of the Taylor reforms and that is not a punitive, blame culture style. It's more about allowing forces to manage people and their mistakes and enabling officers to learn from those mistakes rather than facing lengthy investigations, resulting in ridiculous sanctions that have a detrimental impact on officers' wellbeing, work ethic and commitment to policing.
Some are suggesting there will have to be a culture change because the Federation and officers don't admit to mistakes. Well I personally take offence to that. Officers that I have met, worked with and represented are more than happy to admit to mistakes but they fear that over-zealous investigators, senior managers and Chief officers would rather punish officers for mistakes than educate and develop people. Clearly the culture change is two-fold and we all need to adjust, not just those being investigated but also those making decisions regarding the potential outcome. This will ultimately come down to trust and like any relationship once trust is breached it's very difficult to rebuild it.
Once we see the BTP version of the regulations, which will differ slightly from the Home Office Forces we will then share our views with you, and will also invite the Force to provide training for all supervisors who will have a greater responsibility in dealing with the new regulations especially where there are complaints relating to minor indiscretions. We now watch wait this space for how the IOPC react and how BTP allow the new regulations to settle in.
National Negotiating Meeting
This month we have also attended a quartley National Negotiating Meeting (NNM). This is where we negotiate on your behalf regarding matters that you report locally or nationally to your Federation and we receive updates regarding what is currently on the Force agenda.
The first item we received an update on was uniform. There are still some officers, especially on A Division, who have not taken possession of the newly designed jackets, which to be frank is really sad bearing in mind we were promised that these would be issued in Autumn of 2019. We are not far from Spring 2020 and still officers haven't received the jacket and some who have, especially female officers, have the wrong size.
Concerns have been raised with the relevant department and I was copied into an email chain where it was suggested that getting the jackets issued to all is the main concern rather than worrying about sizes. The priority is the issuing all items of uniform to student officers. BTP have 100 new recruits starting before the end of March and getting them fully kitted out whilst still addressing the jackets is an ongoing problem. We are told that any officer who has the wrong size will eventually receive the correct size, but other pressures are preventing this from happening.
I am always interested in how BTP manage to spin numerous plates. When one or two fall there's always a reason for the failure and nine times out of ten it comes down to the lack of resilience, planning and resources. We all know too often being a national force that issuing uniform isn't an easy task but when you centralise your support function and reduce the staff in that function what else do we expect? I know its not rocket science but please, are we really to believe that BTP cannot issue jackets to every officer in a matter of weeks rather than months; over four months to be precise. Perhaps this is one of those hindrance stressors officers speak about. It's usually the simple things that cause the biggest hardship.
Whilst on uniform there should now be an instruction for officers wishing to purchase slash-proof gloves on how to claim money back from the Force. If you want to purchase such you can, but importantly you will be reimbursed the full cost. Some will ask why the Force isn't buying them but the reality is not everyone wants them and again sizes come into play so rather than purchasing a load of gloves that could potentially sit in a warehouse the Force is giving officers the option to purchase with the reassurance you will firstly order the size that's right for you and secondly you will be reimbursed the full cost.
PIP-trained Fed Reps on call:
You may also recollect that our General Secretary has submitted a paper to the Force encouraging them to allow for Post Incident Procedure trained Federation representatives to be on call for any Firearms or Death and Serious injury incidents. BTP currently has Post Incident mangers on call across the entire force but no on-call Federation reps. Thankfully the paper has been accepted and the DCC will sponsor the paper to present to the Chief Officer Group. We await the decision of that group. Depending on that, a list of trained officers will be published on our web page and their contact numbers will sit in the control rooms to be called when needed. So just as a reminder from last month, if you are involved in a firearms incident or a DSI incident don't hesitate to call your trained Federation representative.
South East Allowance:
As mentioned in previous blogs, this will hopefully be paid in your March pay. I can reassure all who receive the allowance that there are no plans to reduce the amount at any locations that currently receive the allowance, nevertheless there are a few new locations that will receive the allowance for the first time and this is great news. A full list can be obtained from the BTP Intranet and we have listed on our website the locations which attract the allowance and how much that allowance is.
Regarding expenses, you should all now be aware of and operating on the newly designed E-Expenses system. Simply scan in your receipt and get paid straight away, no authority, no paperwork and supposedly no delays in being reimbursed. We are told that although currently you are entitled to only claim a maximum of £7.50, you can submit receipts showing exactly what you have paid and if that is over £7.50 then this data will be collated over six months and will be used to determine whether BTP should adjust the maximum amount. That said we are already being informed that the system won't allow you to submit a claim for more than £7.50 and the receipt must show no more than £7.50.
I am therefore concerned how BTP are assessing the true cost of your meal cost if you are unable to show exactly what you are paying. We will be raising this at the next meeting. Please let us know your experiences with the new system, good or bad. Let's report back the positives as well as the negatives.
New child bereavement policy:
Also with the introduction of new legislation regarding child bereavement the Force is looking at introducing a new policy on child bereavement, the amount of compassionate leave that you are entitled to and what support an employer should be offering parents who experience the death of a child. Again this is a positive step in the right direction. We now wait to see said policy.
Recruitment and retention:
Hull University continues to look at and support BTP with regards to recruitment and retention. They are looking at our recruitment material, what is best guidance regarding the role of a BTP officers, what advice should be provided to potential new recruits, what is best practice in the recruitment world and how best BTP can design that material. Again this is a very positive step, bearing in mind certain students are joining policing and discovering it's not the job for them and as quickly as they join, they leave. This does raise a question over what they are being told and how much students understand of the role. As many of you will know policing isn't for everyone. Many don't like confrontation, some can't cope with shift work, many can't deal with attending fatalities and some quickly realise you are not going to get rich quick whilst you are in the world of policing. We welcome better and more detailed recruitment material so those that do join stay and prosper and develop into great and brave police officers.
Finally, we were informed that those affected by the lack of a bilateral agreement should be receiving a letter this month regards to what options are open to you as ex-Home Office police officers. Again, we have only just received a copy of the letter and we will be sharing it with our lawyers seeking their professional views, thoughts and opinions.
We appreciate how frustrating this is for many in BTP who are not only still waiting for the remedy to resolve the issue of the pension challenge affecting thousands of officers across the entire country, but also facing the additional pressures of not fully understanding or knowing what to do with your pensions whilst you have served in BTP.
We also wait for an update from PFEW regarding the pension challenge and what decisions the Home Office will take. Potentially, if officers who have been moved from the final salary scheme or tapered on to the CARE scheme are returned to their original final salary scheme then they should be able to transfer pensions over, as there is a bilateral agreement with the final salary schemes.
Compendium of terms and conditions:
Finally, at the NNM we discussed the future compendium regarding your terms and conditions and what exactly are contractual terms and what is just force policy. As we all know, policy changes with the weather and what we want is to secure more contractual conditions so that any changes need to be negotiated rather than consulted on and that negotiation is meaningful and supported by law i.e. The Railway Transport and Safety Act.
We now have the Force's final version of the compendium and we have forwarded it to our barrister to obtain a legal view on what has been produced. We are ever closer to finalising what has been a very long project that has gone back and forth for too many years now, nonetheless at the 11th hour we are facing a reluctance from BTP to identify anything other than nine official contractual conditions out of a total of 59 rules/regulations. No, you haven't misread this; nine contractual conditions out of 59. They relate to pay scales, leave entitlement, occupational sickness pay, redundancy and resettlement, notice periods, pensions and would you believe "leaving BTP". The irony that part of your nine contractual conditions of service is about leaving BTP.
So in summary BTP believe they only have to negotiate on nine of your contractual conditions of service but they simply have to consult on 50 other policies. Clearly this is wholly unacceptable and flies in the face of what we were all intending to achieve by ensuring you all, as employees of BTP know exactly what your terms and conditions of service are and what the Federation can negotiate on your behalf. BTP allegedly have received legal advice but be reassured we will be obtaining our own advice and if deemed necessary we will seek a judicial review through the law courts regarding this decision.
When I say nothing ever surprises me with this job, well this is one of those occasions when you yet again experience a shocker of a decision. So for example the decision to provide officers with South East allowance is not a condition of service it is policy and BTP believe they can give it one day and take it back on another whenever its suits without meaningful negotiation but with simple consultation; consultation with sometimes takes the form of simply being informed of the change regardless.
Equality Support Associations
On some positive news the General Secretary, Darren Townsend, and myself attended the BTP Equality Support Association Chairs conference in London, supported by Barry Boffy. We had the opportunity to discuss how best we could work together as fellow associations and how best we can support each and every association.
We are now working on holding a conference in 2020 where all Federation Chairs and Secretaries will meet with all Chairs and Secretaries from all of our Equality Support Associations. This will be a day of listening, learning and sharing, with the end result that all of our members benefit from improved welfare support from all associations, better understanding of our diverse workforce and better communications between associations. I was very pleased that we were given the opportunity to explain that BTP Federation is a representative body for all members and we are wanting to work more closely with our Equality Support Associations.
I hope this is the start of better engagement, better working together and a better education for Federation reps as much as our members.
BTP Federation Conference
Talking of conferences, our annual conference gets underway on the afternoon of the 17 March and concludes on the evening of the 18 March. This year the event is being held in Cardiff and we have some great guest speakers. A speaker from the legal world will talk about misconduct and criminal proceedings while a guest from the rail industry that will describe the value of BTP officers and why we are so important to our stakeholders.
The delegates present will have an opportunity to ask questions of the Chief Constable, the BTP Authority and the Chair of the Federation. I will personally be giving a speech to the Minister, the Chief, and the BTP Authority regarding the Federation views, concerns, needs and requests.
Also, at our conference we will be paying recognition to a number of BTP officers who have been nominated by you for a Federation Award of Excellence. Look out on social media where we will share some of the excellent stories of tenacity, bravery, courage and self-motivation. We hope those officers attending have an enjoyable and memorable evening and we hope conference is a positive event where Ministers, Chief Officers and the Authority will listen, learn and work with us to address some of your concerns.
The new password protected area of our website means we can more easily share the outcomes from conference with you, so keep an eye out for notification of that information being available.
Thank you again for reading this month's blog. I hope I have provided sufficient detail to keep you informed on what your Federation is doing on your behalf. As always if you have any concerns or queries please do not hesitate to contact your local reps or the head office in West Dulwich.
Quote of the Month:
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."