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 Federation blog for August 2021. I wish to start by taking this opportunity to share our deepest condolences with the family, friends and colleagues of former PC Paul Morse (Morsey). Sadly, Paul passed away late last month, and he will be missed by many; our thoughts and prayers are everyone who knew him. Paul's funeral will take place on Friday 27 August at 2pm. We have shared a circular with our members, retired officers and police staff regarding the funeral arrangements and how you can watch the service online if you wish. If you haven't received the circular, please email email@example.com as soon as possible so we can send it to you. We will all be thinking of Paul's family and friends on this day.
Promotions and moves
I would congratulate everyone who was successful in the Sergeants promotion boards this month. We appreciate this process has been a long road for many, nonetheless we wish you all the very best for your future promotion. To my mind (and I might be biased) the Sergeant role is the most important role in policing. It has often been defined as the most demanding role too. You are the key point of contact for operational policing, and you remain on the frontline working with those who deliver an excellent service. You are expected to lead by example, make split second decisions, you are the guide, the mentor, you can develop your staff while also being able to challenge them, you have to look after their welfare, be the font of all knowledge, you also have to motivate, encourage and set standards while being engaging, approachable and considerate to everyone's needs, including the needs of the organisation. You are the "do-er" regardless of all the above skills and traits; the duty Sergeant simply needs to ensure the job gets done.
You will spin many plates to keep the job going and at times you may question why. However, there is no better sense of job satisfaction when it all goes to plan, your colleagues come back the next day with a smile, fit and well, ready for another day with a couple of lessons learnt, a story to tell a colleague or the family and the desire and determination to go out and do another great job. Good luck to you all, I am sure you will do a fantastic job. My only advice, having been there myself, is to never be afraid to ask for help if you're ever in doubt or are simply finding all a bit too much.
I would also like to congratulate Chief Superintendent Allan Gregory who has been appointed temporary Assistant Chief Constable. He will provide a much-needed extra pair of hands in the Chief Officer Group. We look forward to working with Mr Gregory in the future.
Finally, I would also like to welcome our newly appointed Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Sutherland who will join us next month having served in the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police. Mr Sutherland comes with a vast amount of experience which will only complement our current Chief Officer Group. We look forward to meeting and working with Mr Sutherland in the very near future. Where we gain a new Chief officer, we have to say goodbye to DCC Adrian Hanstock. I am not going to say too much in this month's blog because he hasn't left us yet and I know we will get an opportunity next month, especially at our annual conference, to say our goodbyes, but he will be missed and we wish him all the very best for his future retirement.
Police Treatment Centres Amnesty
While on the subject of feeling good and fit, if you haven't already seen the promotion posters and circulars, the Police Treatment Centres charity is running an amnesty during September and October 2021. During these months only, serving and retired officers will be able to start donating to the charity and be eligible to receive treatment without the usual 12-month wait.
The amnesty applies to serving and retired police officers, PCSO's, Special Constable's and detention and custody officers.
The past two years have been difficult for the police family and the charity recognises that demand for its services will only increase. The Police Treatment Centre at St Andrews in Harrogate has recently opened its new clinical services wing, providing more capacity across both centres. By offering this amnesty, the charity hopes it will appeal to officers who have not previously signed up or who have cancelled their donations to the charity.
During the amnesty months, the charity will host virtual information sessions on TEAMS to help officers to better understand the work and services the charity offers. The dates are published on the PTC website, on our website and our Federation Facebook page. To book a session please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Police officer pay
On to news of what the Federation has been doing this month and obviously, the decision by the Home Office to not award a pay increase this year impacts on many of us. As many of you may recollect, as BTP officers we have pay parity with our Home Office colleagues and therefore we will also face a pay freeze this year. This comes as an enormous blow to all, especially after your sterling efforts during the pandemic when you were out and about, keeping everyone safe, whilst the majority of the country went into isolation.
Your contribution to keeping the country moving during the pandemic has simply been ignored by this government. We are all aware of the pressures on government finances and we all expected a pay freeze on public sector salaries as suggested last year. We also anticipated the NHS would receive a pay increase and rightly so. What we didn't expect was that certain other public sector workers would receive a pay increase while policing suffered another year of going without - to add to the last 10 years of receiving the crumbs from the politicians' table.
We are now linking in with PFEW around the future of pay negotiations as there is no trust or confidence in the PRRB, the supposedly independent body that provides advice and guidance to the government regarding police pay. We will also continue our discussions with BTP Authority on the future of pay parity and pay negotiations in BTP.
National Negotiating Meeting
This month we have attended our National Negotiating Meeting (NNM), a quarterly meeting with the Force regarding your terms and conditions.
We continue to discuss and debate the compendium of Terms and Conditions which we inch closer to delivering. We are now at the point of crossing the T's and dotting the I's. The aim is to have the index document circulated by the end of next month. It has been a long time coming and we are very pleased to have nearly reached the finishing line. I would like to thank all those involved, especially Pauline Okirie, the Force Policy & Engagement Manager, who I suspect won't forget the name Nobby Goodband.
I know I have been a pain in her side while she has attempted to bring everything together especially with regards to the compendium. We haven't always seen eye to eye on this matter, but I want to go on record to say that Pauline's work, effort, patience and commitment to this particular project is and always will be very much appreciated. So, a very big thank you to Pauline.
Single patrol strategy
This is a regular concern raised by our frontline officers and the potential risk it poses was raised with the Force. The DCC explained that due to limited resources BTP's preferred option is for single patrol with a line-of-sight approach where it is safe to do so. Nevertheless, what the DCC did confirm is that there is an expectation that supervisors use their own discretion. Where there is evidence or intelligence of a risk, or the hour of the day could present a risk due to travellers being in drink and so on, then supervisors should deploy officers accordingly and if double crewing is the safer option due to known or suspected risk then that decision is in their hands and control. The DCC confirmed there is no one policy that insists a single patrol strategy is the only acceptable way of policing in BTP.
Rest day cancellations
This is another topic of concern that we have raised recently, along with the continued practice of mass cancellations on a 'just in case' basis. It is known that the Chief Constable is not in favour of mass rest day cancellations across divisions or the Force. There must be a justified reason, a pressing demand for resources and cancellations must be based on intelligence or demonstrable evidence.
The demand on policing, including BTP, is ever increasing but the resourcing level stays the same. Rest day cancellations will occur regardless of what roster you work; however, the Force has agreed that communications between the planning/events department and frontline officers must improve. The Force can't simply be allowed to circulate an Origin email stating your rest day is cancelled without an explanation. The notification must inform you of the hours you are expected to work, the reasons for the cancellation and a point of contact for those exceptional cases if there is a pre-booked event that can't be cancelled (for example, it's your wedding day).
Furthermore, the Force agreed that the pool of officers who are cancelled on a regular basis is getting smaller and Events Planning must be able to extend the demand on BTP to other units, departments, and specialist roles. Our frontline response officers cannot continue to carry the burden of being the same officers being cancelled time after time. So, going forward the Force will now utilise other officers where possible before reverting immediately to cancelling the same officers week in, week out.
It was also confirmed and finalised that any RDIL which are recorded as an 8-hour day can now be converted into hours. So rather than you attempting to match a day for a day by stealing from your TOIL or worse, your annual leave, to make up hours you can now use RDIL hours to address any deficit. Hopefully this will prevent you missing out on annual leave or feeling like you need to save a few days annual leave each year. It will also hopefully address the ever-growing number of RDIL's that officers have banked.
Whilst on the annual leave and RDIL topic, the Force is introducing a new policy that has been shared with the staff associations including the Federation. The policy is regarding RDIL, TOIL and annual leave and we have invited the Force to mirror police regulations rather than have a scenario or a policy of 'use it or lose it'. The new policy is in its final draft and will be presented to the Chief Officer Group before being circulated later next month. Once we have the final draft, we will endeavor to update you all.
This policy will hopefully address the imbalance of RDIL's being banked and officers not being able to take time off. It will certainly address a welfare concern by ensuring officers have periods of rest rather than going weeks without a day off and will ensure there is consistency throughout the Force rather than different practices in different divisions. We know this won't suit everyone, some of you like to save RDIL, but outstanding RDIL's presents both a cost liability and a major welfare concern and as a Federation we must focus on the latter.
Car parking and train travel
I have reported previously that BTP is in discussion with the Rail Delivery Group regarding officers travelling on their own jurisdiction, in and out of work, and whether consideration could be given for a discounted cost to that travel, as experienced by some Home Office forces. These discussions are still ongoing and once we have an update, we will share it with you.
The other issue regarding travelling in and out of work is the that of car parking and availability of parking that doesn't incur a substantial cost to the officer. We have been asked to gather evidence on what that cost looks like. The Force is interested to understand the true value/cost of parking for our officers and staff so if you drive into work and pay for parking, please let us know the average cost so we can present evidence to the Force that might assist them in providing an alternative approach. No personal details will be shared, but any information may make a difference. While there are no promises or guarantees, we're keen to work together in the hope of finding some kind of a solution.
Some of you may recall my comments in June regarding Taser and how this Federation supports BTP officers carrying Taser; we believe it is the best tool an officer can carry on their belt. BTP has always taken a view that if you want to be trained then they will train you in using Taser. It doesn't mean, however, that Taser will be available every time you are on duty. BTP has a large number of Tasers, but they don't have sufficient to issue to every officer who is trained. As a result of feedback provided, we invited the Force to review the number of devices available, which they have done.
As it stands at the moment, across the Force (including Armed Policing) there is a sufficient number of X2 devices. We have 948 Taser trained officers, which means there is a ratio of 1.3 officers to each device in force. Taser rollout in Scotland is also currently being reviewed to enable more officers to carry in line with Police Scotland changes.
As we all know, Taser is not classed as PPE. While BTP allows all those who wish to be trained to join the waiting list, there are around 20 Taser courses a year and each takes 12 students. The Force has stated it will never get into a position where there is no waiting list due to the turnover of officers.
However, across the divisions, each location has sufficient Tasers for the number of officers to carry. Occasionally there is feedback suggesting there aren't enough devices to go around a shift, but if BTP allowed for each officer to have one in case they were all on duty and deployable at the same time or on a particular day, BTP would potentially have hundreds of devices sitting idle for vast amounts of time. T/Supt Jo Cash released around 110 devices from a central supply back to the divisions in 2019. Of these, both C and D Divisions still have a number of spare devices sitting in their ops departments if they are required.
I hope this reassures officers, especially our Taser trained officers, that the Force is monitoring the number of available devices and officers being trained. We will continue to monitor this situation too and if you are experiencing concerns around availability please don't hesitate to report back to us so we can share such with the Force.
We have highlighted your concerns regarding new rosters being introduced halfway through the year. When this happens, it can impact on annual leave with some facing a negative balance of A/L hours due to these changes. All in BTP should submit their annual leave applications in October/November for the following year; this is Force policy. The usual 20% abstractions are worked out and once the leave is authorised officers can then book holidays, birthdays, weddings and so on without concern.
Sadly, in some parts of BTP new rosters have been introduced midway through the following year, which then impacts annual leave which has already been authorised, booked and paid for. In some cases, officers find that they are short of the number of hours required for them to take their booked leave and their time off with family/friends is threatened or compromised. We accept no one should get more leave than others as that would create an inequality issue, but we have invited the Force to explore the option of not allowing roster changes midway through the year. Like the transfer window in football, we have requested that any new rosters being introduced should be done during a period which falls line with officers booking annual leave, hopefully preventing anyone suffering a detriment. BTP has agreed to explore such an idea, which is a positive step in the right direction. Any updates in the future will be shared with you.
We have also invited the Force to review the overnight allowance policy, where certain units or departments are not entitled to claim overnight allowance because their role descriptions determine that staying out overnight is part of their normal business i.e. Special Movements Officers. We have asked that if these officers ever work outside their normal role and requirements, for example the G7 Summit, then they can claim overnight allowance in the same way all other officers can. The current wording of Force policy prevents this. Again, the Force agrees with the proposal and will review the policy and amend it to address these situations.
Officer injury award
The Federation has submitted a paper to BTP inviting the Force to introduce Police Regulations 11 and 12. These both relate to officers being injured on duty and receiving compensation and payment connected to pensions for long term injuries. I won't go into great detail, but BTP doesn't follow these regulations for a number of reasons, and we have asked - in line with pay parity - that both are introduced into BTP terms and conditions. I am pleased to report that BTP has agreed to set up a working group, including members of the Federation, to explore these regulations and to look at the cost, the impact on your pension scheme and the ability for BTP to mirror such in line with our contract of employment. We look forward to having those discussions, hopefully resulting in parity with our Home Office colleagues.
Higher Grade Duties
The Force is reviewing the way that Higher Grade Duty opportunities are allocated and monitored across the Force. They recognise that there is work to be done to improve the consistency of the process and equality of access to HGD roles. Following the recent survey results, BTP knows how important it is that we engage with their employee support groups on this matter, and therefore, they are reaching out to them in the first instance.
Alongside proposed policy changes and central governance of HGD allocation, BTP proposes to change the way their HGD pools are managed. They would like to invite anyone who has an interest in this area, both officers and staff, to one of two focus groups to act as critical friends of the proposal and gather feedback to inform the design of the process going forward.
You can attend either of the following sessions via Teams on Tuesday 7th September:
Session 2 - 1330 hours
If you would like to attend, email TalentManagement@btp.police.uk
Federation Conference and Awards
Hopefully this month's post has given you a flavour of what we are involved with. We are now planning our annual conference which is to take place in York next month. We will have numerous guests attending both our annual conference and Federation Awards of Excellence where you, our members, have nominated your peers to receive an award. These awards date back to last year as we were unable to hold the event due to the pandemic, but fingers crossed, we will be able to pay recognition to those who were nominated and demonstrate to our fraternal guests how proud we are of all in BTP.
Updates on our conference, speeches, the Chief Constable's Q&A session, and the awards will be shared on our website and social media. Please follow these newsworthy stories, share them with colleagues and join us in feeling proud to be BTP officers.
Quote of the Month:
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it"