Most public sector HR directors would find a governmental review to establish whether their organisation should be abolished somewhat troubling.
But Linda Scott, director of HR at the British Transport Police (BTP), is un-fazed. “There’s something about the organisation that is tremendously resilient,” she said.
The BTP, the national police force for UK railways and the London Underground, is undergoing its fourth review in four years – less than six months after Scott joined.
The government said the evaluation, which is being carried out by the Department for Transport, was concentrating on the option of “re-focusing” the BTP.
However, Gwyneth Dunwoody, chairwoman of the House of Commons Transport Committee, labelled the review as “bizarre”. She said the BTP should be retained because it was “vital for tackling crime and helping to prevent terrorist attacks on the railways”.
Scott, the former head of policy at the Crown Prosecution Service, said staff at BTP were strong enough to withstand these precarious circumstances. “There has been huge uncertainty but our staff continue to go on and deliver,” she said.
Scott – who reports to the organisation’s chief constable, Ian Johnston – oversees about 50 HR staff at the BTP’s headquarters in North London, and an additional 50 staff at the organisation’s training unit in Surrey. She also has a number of canine subordinates (Personnel Today, 30 May) who are essential to the BTP. The dogs help with drug enforcement and crowd control.
BTP employees played a key role in the aftermath of the 7 July London terror attacks and, a year on, Scott’s pride in the workforce remains evident.
“From an HR perspective, there’s a real mixture of sadness and pride when we look back on everything,” she said. “There are only four officers who haven’t returned to their frontline duties, and our officers have less than eight days a year off sick on average.”
The HR team has a fundamental role to play in managing occupational health in situations such as last July, Scott said. “We’ve made a huge investment in ensuring there’s a preventative healthcare provider in place, and we’ve been very proactive in managing it,” she said.
But there is still work to do. Scott is trying to create a more open culture at the BTP, where employees are able to discuss personal issues freely. “It’s a high-risk job, both physically and emotionally,” she said. “I want to make it more acceptable for officers to admit to emotional problems.”
The HR team at BTP have also been drawing up contingency plans for the one-year anniversary of the 7 July bombings. Occupational health and welfare support staff have been briefed about coping with heightened emotional conflicts during such a sensitive time, Scott said. “We want our staff to know that we’re thinking about them and to ensure the HR people in their area communicate what facilities are available to them.”
Despite ongoing governmental reviews, the merging of the regional police forces and the constant threat of another terrorist attack, Scott remains buoyant about the BTP’s future.
“We have a hugely successful and resilient culture here,” she said. “We’re a long way off from being a finished product, but we’re starting from a sound base.”
BTP: THE FACTS
- The BTP is responsible for the safety of about five million commuters a day and policing rail operators, including staff and passengers, throughout the UK.
- The organisation employs about 2,280 police officers and 704 support staff.
- The force is also responsible for the London Underground system and the Midlands Metro Tram system.