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 monthly Federation blog for February 2021. May I start by firstly sharing our deepest condolences to all those officers who have sadly lost their fight against this killer Covid virus. Their families, friends and colleagues are in our thoughts and our prayers.
I must admit, I am saddened to keep waking up to the devasting news that another frontline police officer has died due to Covid. These are young officers in their 30's, 40's and 50s and their deaths make the Government's decision to not prioritise police officers and other keyworkers for the vaccine even more outrageous. I know I may come across as forthright and sound unsupportive of the vulnerable; that's not the case. I am not suggesting keyworkers, including police officers should jump the queue, but the longer this goes on and the more people who get vaccinated ahead of all keyworkers, the more the Government's argument is flawed.
You and many, many others serve the public and have kept the country moving. You are on the frontline helping to protect people from this killer virus. Sadly, too many in policing have now paid the ultimate sacrifice for this Government to be excused from doing the right and proper thing. Why will they not protect those who are protecting others? They rightly prioritised NHS and care workers but by not extending that to other public sector workers, the Government is allowing you to remain exposed and vulnerable to the virus. The sense of feeling is very strong. Enough is enough. Police officers and other public sector workers must be vaccinated as a priority.
Some officers are being contacted by the NHS and offered vaccinations that people haven't taken up that day, rather than them being thrown away and wasted. Certain media outlets have suggested that this is unethical, officers receiving the vaccination through the back door. Are these same people suggesting vaccinations should be disposed of rather than go into the arm of a public servant?
The suggestion we should not accept such invitations was challenged legally by this Federation and any suggestion or instruction to not accept a formal invitation is not a lawful instruction. That said, what a sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in, that those who have to run towards danger, those who are policing the ever-changing Covid regulations, those who are being spat and coughed at, have to wait for leftovers at the end of the day. In my opinion this is nothing short of a public disgrace.
We hear the Government talk of a Police Covenant enshrined in law, to protect the welfare and the wellbeing of police officers but they can't even make a decision on when police officers will be provided with the vaccination. What hope is there if they can't get it right in the midst of a national crisis. I have never felt so enraged and frustrated. I am not aware of any other country taking this stance in respect of their public servants. What next? Those who sit in prisons, having committed crimes against society will receive the vaccination before police officers? I am sorry what was that, they already have?
I don't apologise for the tone of this message. I believe it needs saying and I hope many politicians will read this blog and will join us in putting pressure on the Government to right this wrong. It cannot be right that frontline police officers and other keyworkers receive their vaccinations long after lockdown is lifted and in the meantime the threat to their health and life continues.
Moving on to other business, I mentioned the Police Covenant above and as per the update last month, we have been made aware that the Home Office intends to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for non-Home Office forces, rather than writing us into legislation. This is not acceptable, so we have written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Shadow Secretary of State, members of the Home Affairs select committee, members of the House of Lords, the BTP Authority and the Chief Constable. They have been very supportive and agree that all police officers should be covered by legislation and not a MoU, and any suggestion of such would undermine the value of the Covenant.
As a result of writing these letters, I had a very positive meeting with the Shadow Secretary of State Jim McMahon MP. He agreed that all police officers should be covered by a Covenant enshrined in legislation, all Chief Constables should have a statutory obligation to the wellbeing of their staff regardless of the force they serve in, and all Secretaries of State with responsibility for policing should have an overarching statutory obligation. He has since written to Home Office to express this. I am also informed that BTP and the Authority have likewise written to DfT and the Secretary of State in support of our position. Hopefully, with this level of support, the Home Office will re-evaluate their initial considerations and include us all in the draft legislation. We will obviously keep a watching eye on this matter.
On a positive note regarding Covid, the Force is intending to introduce an asymptomatic testing regime. The policy should be circulated shortly and the sites will appear in your area over the next three to four weeks. The placement of sites will be determined by the size of the location and whether that location can deliver on the policy assessment and needs.
I would respectfully request and invite you all to be pragmatic, flexible and supportive of this approach. It's going to be very difficult to get consistency across the force, nevertheless once its embedded in your location it should be a straightforward process, where you and your colleagues can be tested once or twice a week in the work place, providing a level of reassurance for you. It's not going to be 24/7 availability as we won't have sufficient trained operatives to run the sites, but hopefully the operating pattern is something each site will work out themselves. A lot of hard work has gone in to arranging these sites and tests, so please buy into it, support it and help us all stay safe.
Office assault pledge
As many of you should be aware, this month the Force has launched a reinvigorated version of the Police Officer assault pledge. This is excellent news and is sponsored by BTP Federation. We have already received some very positive feedback from officers who have been victims of crime and have praised the pledge. Their first-hand experience of it shows how the pledge can and does work.
If you haven't seen the new pledge you can read more here. Remember, being physically or verbally assaulted on duty is not part of the job. If happens you are a victim of crime like any other victim and you should be supported and treated as such. We are very pleased with the relaunch and would like to thank Supt England and her team for their excellent work in getting the pledge back on track.
National Negotiating Meeting
Police Officers' Compendium
Talking of getting back on track, we had our National Negotiating Meeting (NNM) this month and we have, I believe, finally reached a point of agreeing to the Police Officers' Compendium. We are told the Force should have a final draft version of your Terms and Conditions and Force policy written in one document by the end of March. This is with the intention to go live in April.
As you probably know, this has been an ongoing debate for too many years and it is very pleasing that we will finally have one document that we can all refer to when talking about Terms and Conditions. It will set out what is expected of us as BTP officers, what we're entitled to for fulfilling that role; questions we all ask often during our careers and to which we receive different answers depending on who we ask. This Compendium will hopefully bring a stop to any confusion and ensure you all know what you are contracted to do and contracted to receive, whilst also understanding what is Force policy.
Conduct and performance
The new Conduct and Performance Regulations were adopted by the Force in January this year. If you have not yet had an input in to these regulations, then please visit the PSD page on the intranet and seek out their training aides or alternatively drop Jo Channon an email. Jo is assisting PSD with these new regulations and delivering training for supervisors, in particular. It is important we embrace and learn about reflective practice, which is a massive culture change for all in BTP. The only way these regulations will work is if we all have a basic working knowledge of them.
In line with the new PDR system, PSD and L&D are working together to train supervisors in performance reviews and reflective practice. This training is in addition to what's published in the PSD area of the intranet. If any supervisors find themselves dealing with reflective practice and are unsure what to do, they should contact Jo from PSD or their local Fed Rep.
There was also discussion regarding officers' annual leave. Many of us have carried annual leave over from 2020 and are now carrying leave from 2021 into 2022. The amount of outstanding leave across the Force is beginning to stack up due to Covid and officers are being encouraged to start booking and taking their leave. Why, I hear you ask, when there is nowhere to go?
Firstly, it's about your wellbeing. We all need to take time out, to switch off from the job. Saving leave and working every day possible is only going to result in burn out. Secondly, there are a lot of forthcoming commitments such as the Euro's, G7 summit, Commonwealth Games which will impact on how much leave you will be authorised to take. When lockdown is lifted, some officers will be disappointed to find their applications for leave are turned down, but if it's not already booked then it may not be authorised due to current abstractions and BTP commitments. Waiting to book leave the in the hope you can travel may mean you're left disappointed so book it while you can.
Rest days in lieu
Furthermore, another developing issue is Rest Days in Lieu (RDIL). Many of you have large numbers of RDIL banked and this is becoming unmanageable for the Force. Just over 3 years ago the force implemented a new policy, prescribing that RDIL had a shelf life of 12 months, after which you lose them. The 12-month timescale would commence from the day of your rest day (not the day your rest day was cancelled). This was an agreed position with the Federation at the time. However, it seems this policy did not get applied or communicated throughout the force.
We now have officers with banked RDIL's going back to 2016. Many are in double figures and continuing to grow. The Force sees this as a major issue for operational and resilience planning and consequently intend to reintroduce the 12 months policy. While we agreed the original policy, we do have some concerns about its re-introduction. After all, it's the Force that keeps cancelling your rest days due to operational needs, it's the Force that doesn't follow police regulations regarding re-rostering RD's and it's the Force that has not followed its own policy. We wait to see what the Force decides but again, by way of caution, if you've got numerous banked RDIL's and you need a break, take them, enjoy some time off and don't get yourself in a position where you may potentially lose out. We will obviously take a stance on any new policy that ensures fairness to all.
Whilst on RDIL topic, some colleagues have had RDIL's booked and have subsequently tested positive for Covid or been instructed to self-isolate. In line with the sickness absence policy the decision is that you would lose that RDIL, in the same way as you would if you booked sick in normal circumstances. We have challenged this current Covid position bearing in mind you are suffering a detriment through no fault of your own. The Force is looking at the numbers involved to determine if they are willing to change their posture and policy purely based on the Covid scenario and not the wider sickness absence policy.
The Force has agreed to extend maternity leave as per last month's update. As a result of feedback received the General Secretary, Mark Marshallsay, has submitted a further paper asking the Force to consider extending officers' paternity leave. This wasn't agreed by the Force this month at the NNM, however, they stated they would support the paper if it had the backing of the NPCC. We intend to speak with colleagues in PFEW to seek their support in taking the paper to the NPCC for consideration.
At the meeting we also raised the issue of the current restrictions in place in Scotland for our Taser -trained officers. Currently BTP Scotland officers are only allowed to carry and been seen carrying Taser on certain main line stations. This restriction was in place whilst there were other restrictions for officers in Police Scotland. Thankfully, the restrictions in Police Scotland have been lifted and more officers are now carrying Taser. Sadly, BTP officers still have restrictions in place and have been somewhat left behind. This will now be presented by the Force to the BTPA/Scottish Police Authority joint Railway Policing Committee for their consideration and that of the newly appointed Chief Constable.
Finally, on NNM business, with the support of BTP's Female Police Association we submitted a written paper regarding the suspension of the JRFT. The JRFT is currently under review by the College of Policing and without going into great detail, there is a suggestion from the FPA and this Federation that the current JRFT discriminates against certain officers and that cannot continue to happen.
Furthermore, we have invited the Force to terminate the blanket practice of placing of officers onto TDR if they fail the JRFT. This is having a massive detrimental impact on officers, making them feel that they have to do the "walk of shame" every day when they come in to work and that they have let themselves and their colleagues down. Again, this is not acceptable and needs to change. We have shared the paper produced by the FPA for the Force to consider. Our new Chief Constable will be asked to review it and hopefully we will then receive the Chief Officer Group's thoughts and a decision. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the FPA for their support and excellent report.
Diversity and Inclusion
As reported previously we have been working more closely with BTP's Diversity, Equality and Inclusion team. Many of you already know Barry Boffy, who is BTP's Head of Inclusion and Diversity, but we also now have Ch Supt Dennis Murray, the Force's Lead for Trust, Legitimacy and Community Policing.
I believe, as do Mr Boffy and Mr Murray, that we should all understand more about their roles and what "Moving the Needle" means to us all. Therefore, next month we are doing a Q&A session that will be recorded where I will be posing your questions to both Barry and Dennis.
We know and understand some feel wary of discussing diversity and inclusion, but we believe it is crucial that we have a culture where conversation and learning are encouraged. So, if you have any questions that you would like answers to, or questions you have for Barry or Dennis individually then please drop us an email email@example.com.
All questions will be in the strictest of confidence, you will not be identified, and I will pose the questions on your behalf. Clearly, I will remind you of the standards of professional behaviour, but I have faith and confidence that you will pose serious and professional questions.
We have all seen the announcement regarding the lifting of lockdown restrictions and I am sure many of us are desperately waiting to see our families and friends. However, from previous experience I think we can all appreciate how busy life is going to get in BTP when people are allowed to travel again. We can all appreciate the risk that this brings to all our frontline officers and the additional hours many will have to put in to aid the country getting back to some form of normality.
All I can say is please stay safe, continue to look out for each other and where possible take some time out to spend with your love ones. The next few months are going to be busy for us all and it's important we have that down time to recharge those batteries to allow us to be fit for the next shift.
Keep up the excellent work, the dedication to duty and the spirit that has seen you all come through this pandemic. You have all been superstars and hopefully this last push will see us all return to some kind of normality. So, on behalf of us all in the Federation, a very big thank you to you all.
Thank you again for reading this blog. As always, please do not hesitate to contact your local Federation representative if you have questions or suggestions.
Quote of the Month:
"Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you're willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it."