Inspection into British Transport Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy

Published on: 22 February 2024

Overall summary

In 2021, we were commissioned by the Minister of State for Transport to inspect British Transport Police (BTP) and assess the efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy of the force.

The commission required assessment of the force in seven of the areas that make up our police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy assessment framework using the following questions:

  • How good is the force’s service for victims of crime?
  • How good is the force at engaging with the people it serves and treating them fairly, appropriately and respectfully?
  • How good is the force at preventing and deterring crime, antisocial behaviour and vulnerability?
  • How good is the force at protecting vulnerable people?
  • How good is the force at disrupting serious and organised crime?
  • How good is the force at building, developing and looking after its workforce and encouraging an ethical, lawful and inclusive workplace?
  • How good is the force at planning and managing its organisation efficiently, making sure it achieves value for money, now and in the future?

We reported on how good the force’s service is for victims of crime in early 2022. The report can be found on our website.

This further report sets out the findings and graded judgments in five of the seven areas that we inspected. Due to the way that we now report on serious and organised crime (SOC) and vetting and counter-corruption, we have provided links to those reports that contain our findings and graded judgments. We have also included the graded judgments in this report. Unless otherwise stated, our findings apply to all parts of the force’s jurisdiction in Great Britain.

Our judgments

Area Grade
Engaging with and treating the public with fairness and respect Good
Preventing crime and antisocial behaviour Good
Protecting vulnerable people Good
Disrupting serious organised crime Adequate
Building, supporting and protecting the workforce Good
Vetting and counter-corruption Inadequate
Strategic planning, organisational and value for money Adequate

We set out our detailed findings about things the force is doing well and where it should improve in the rest of this report.

Engaging with and treating the public with fairness and respect

BTP is good at treating people fairly and with respect. In this section we set out our most noteworthy findings for this question.

Area for improvement

By May 2023, the force should improve its processes for external scrutiny

This should include:

  • ensuring that its independent advisory groups (IAGs) are independently chaired;
  • increasing the diverse representation of IAGs; and
  • enabling IAGs to determine which cases are scrutinised.

IAGs in British Transport Police aren’t always chaired by an independent member. This has the potential to suggest a lack of transparency which could undermine public trust and confidence in the force. We also saw that IAGs didn’t sufficiently represent the travelling public as the communities the force serves, particularly in relation to minority communities and younger people. Training provided to IAGs and the opportunity to self-select cases for audit could also be improved.

Main findings

The force engages with and understands the many diverse communities it serves and treats them with respect

During our inspection we observed several strategic and operational meetings where the force consulted industry partners to understand their concerns and priorities. Partners include rail network organisations, train operating companies (TOCs), freight operating companies and staff representative bodies. Meetings were well attended and there was a healthy exchange of views. These included concerns about assaults on network staff, which were escalated to the force’s neighbourhood policing board. The force intelligence department supports this process through the creation of a problem profile, which uses police and partner data to highlight emerging or established crime, priority locations and other high-risk issues. Tasks were then allocated to patrol officers for further action and monitoring by the board.

We also found that the force works to develop its involvement with other organisations. These include IAGs and outreach charities which support vulnerable people, including those who are homeless. The force also involves communities through Partners and Communities Together meetings, surveys, high-profile media campaigns and its public website. The force makes good use of third-party and anonymous reporting to help encourage trust and confidence in individuals or groups who are less likely to engage with the police. Third-party reporting sites provide advocacy and support for those who aren’t confident to report crime directly to the police. This includes some people with disabilities and those whose first language is not English.

Neighbourhood policing teams (NPTs) use community profiles, which help to define the makeup of the communities, lobby groups and other interested parties in their areas. These include schools, rail user groups, IAGs, elected councillors, retailers, station managers and TOCs. The community profile also details a range of partners involved or associated with the railway industry and the force. These include local authority social care, multi-agency safeguarding hubs, charities such as The Children’s Society, Railway Children and YMCA, rail pastors and chaplains, women’s refuges and mental health services. The force also works with hate crime charities to hold days of action aimed at increasing reporting and raising public awareness. The teams frequently promote these activities and the results through extensive use of social media.

The workforce understands how to treat the public with fairness and respect, and why it is important

‘We are one BTP’ is a statement promoted within force that sets out the standards and shared values of the organisation. During focus groups, many staff explained to us that they adopt those standards and use reflective practice to consider their behaviours during personal safety training. We found that personal safety training is comprehensive and includes guidance on human psychology, trauma and bias, complementing staff training on vulnerability. Internal communications pose thought‑provoking questions, using images and slogans such as, ‘out of control or being controlled?’ This helps officers consider the reasons behind behaviours they encounter that could be influenced by criminality. The ongoing training that officers receive means that safeguarding of potentially vulnerable people is at the front of their mind when they interact with members of the public.

The workforce understands how to use stop and search and use of force powers fairly and respectfully

During our inspection, BTP staff consistently demonstrated a clear understanding of policy on body-worn video (BWV). Officers told us that the use of BWV benefited the public, helped gather evidence and protected officers from malicious public complaints. In a focus group, partner organisations complimented the proportionate way that officers use their powers. A children’s charity representative said that younger in-service officers show a good understanding of the effect of stop and search on autistic people.

Stop and search and use of force training is effective

We found personal safety training to be well developed and robust. This includes training in what constitutes grounds for handcuffing, which was understood by staff. Operational knowledge and competence are tested during training and those who don’t pass are put on restricted duties until they meet the required standard. New in‑service officers receive three days of stop and search training on initial courses and all officers receive stop and search training on their annual personal safety training refresher.

Officers said that training meets the needs and the demands of their job. The training was described as “spot on” by one focus group. Staff also said that the force promotes discussion on ethical dilemmas, which deepens their learning.

Audit and analysis of stop and search records

There is an effective approach to auditing of stop and search records by supervisors in BTP. This improves the way staff use these powers.

A dedicated team of staff scrutinise, audit and quality-assure stop and search records, and supervisors review associated BWV recordings. The team focuses on establishing opportunities to improve how stop and search is used by learning from mistakes. However, where necessary, concerns about an officer’s behaviour are raised with the professional standards department (PSD) for formal assessment and investigation. We found that this level of quality assurance provides standardisation and consistency in decision-making.

The force also provides chief officers with extensive analysis on the use of force and stop and search powers. It measures how well stop and search incidents comply with policy and the outcome of encounters. For example, those that resulted in an arrest, whether any stolen or prohibited items were found, and analysis of any disproportionality. Audits are also cross checked to look for trends that may be consistent with public complaints such as incivility. We observed significant efforts to better understand whether there is any correlation between uses of force and assaults on staff. This information has led to improved training, which now takes account of staff perceptions and their feelings of vulnerability. It helps them understand the psychology of interactions with the public in high-stress situations.

The force publishes data on its use of stop and search and use of force via its public website. The website provides clear explanations and detailed analysis about use of powers and invites public feedback.

In England and Wales in the year ending 31 March 2022, a stolen or prohibited item was found by the force and this was linked to the reason for the search (the ‘find rate’) in 34.8 percent of cases. This was higher than the rate across all forces in England and Wales of 22.4 percent. During the same period, 6.8 percent of the force’s stop and searches resulted in an arrest. This was lower than the rate across all forces in England and Wales of 12.6 percent.

Force policy requires that BWV is used during stop and search and an internal audit reported 95 percent compliance. Audit has led to other improvements in professional practice; examples shown to us involved the procurement of BWV holsters so that plain clothes officers can comply with policy. Another example involved the search of a juvenile in a disabled toilet and whether the young person involved needed more support to understand the purpose of the search. Lessons were learned in this example and led to further training for the officer, communication to staff on best practice, and a review of disproportionality in the stop and search of juveniles.

During our inspection, we reviewed a sample of 249 stop and search records from 1 January to 31 December 2021. Based on this sample, we estimate that 84.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 4.5 percent) of all stop and searches by the force during this period had reasonable grounds recorded. This is below the 90 percent standard that we expect, although it is broadly in line with other police forces in England and Wales. Of the records we reviewed for stop and searches on people from ethnic minority groups, 53 of 64 had reasonable grounds recorded.

Our audit of stop and search records looked at the grounds the searching officer recorded for using their stop and search powers. Our aim was to determine whether the grounds officers relied on were reasonable.

The recorded grounds for a search do not need to provide unnecessarily lengthy information. But the record must be specific and detailed enough for a reasonable person, with the same information, to form a sufficient suspicion that the person searched was carrying the item sought. The grounds must be written clearly enough for the person searched to understand them if they asked for a copy of the record.

External scrutiny

The force works with divisional IAGs and one strategic IAG, whose members help scrutinise the use of force powers, including the use of Taser. (Other makes of conducted energy device are available but Taser is currently used in forces in England, Scotland and Wales.) Each divisional IAG is supported by the force’s network policing support department. Governance is provided through the chief constable’s inclusion and diversity board. This provides a forum for IAGs to raise topics of concern, suggest thematic reviews and to receive updates on activities being carried out.

However, we found that not all IAGs were chaired by an independent member. Nor did the groups sufficiently represent the communities the force serves, particularly in relation to minority communities and younger people. Training provided to IAGs and the opportunity to self-select cases for audit could also be improved. This has the potential to undermine force efforts to increase the trust of people from minority groups. We are reassured that BTP is responding swiftly to this finding and is reviewing national best practice in these areas. This action will also improve force compliance with the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice for external scrutiny.

Preventing crime and antisocial behaviour

BTP is good at preventing and deterring crime and antisocial behaviour. In this section we set out our most noteworthy findings for this question.

Innovative practice

The force communications team uses social media creatively to maximise its ability to reach many diverse audiences

British Transport Police uses focus groups to help understand how social media can be used to improve communication with its communities. It also works with social media influencers to generate conversations with the public, about their awareness and experience of crime and antisocial behaviour. This includes conversations about which behaviours amount to harassment, for example, intimidating staring.

In one campaign, a social media influencer posted the statement ‘worried about travelling at night as a woman’ to reflect their own experience of sexual assault. This post reached over 3.5m people, giving the force useful insight into public attitudes and beliefs towards certain types of behaviour. As part of its evaluation the force uses computer software to help it to determine the sentiment used in these conversations. This insight provides the force with more opportunity to target its future communications more effectively.

This bold approach by the force is highly effective: campaigns have significantly improved public awareness in relation to unwanted sexual behaviour and how to report these crimes. We also found that the ethics of using social media influencers is well considered. This has paved the way for approaches by other forces who consult with British Transport Police as a leader in the use of social media.

Innovative practice

As a member of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, British Transport Police works innovatively with the rail industry and academics to reduce the risk of suicide in vulnerable locations on the railway network

Trespass on the network is a priority for the force. Once a site is identified as a high-risk location, it is inspected for opportunities to reconfigure the physical environment to reduce risk. This can include the installation of gated barriers on fast platforms and public information signs to raise awareness. Network Rail develops problem profiles through additional studies in the relevant area. These studies examine the people, their culture, attitudes and beliefs associated with that location, and analysis identifies opportunities to make improvements. These include suicide prevention training for GPs, as well as concourse businesses and tattooists, the latter due to a link between memorial tattoos and traumatic grief. Feedback on the training has been positive: some retailers have reported that they now have the awareness, skills and confidence to intervene. This demonstrates that the force doesn’t only listen to communities but also works proactively with experts and partner organisations to involve them in sustainable solutions.

Through the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, academic rigour contributes to a greater understanding of the psychological factors of suicide and this is shared through joint training. As evidenced by the force, the applied use of this knowledge may have contributed to an increasing number of lifesaving interventions and fewer deaths.

Main findings

In January 2022, BTP transformed its policing model to meet current and future demands. This means increasing the numbers of staff with responsibility for neighbourhood policing and providing them with better training, as well as access to specialist resources and partnerships.

The force has a neighbourhood policing strategy, which is centred around the principles of involving the community and problem-solving. The strategy was written following consultation with the force’s stakeholders, including some of the public who use the rail services, those who operate or work in it, and IAGs.

The aim of the strategy is to use force resources effectively to protect the rail network. This is being promoted through a three-year transformation programme known as ‘A Force on The Move’ (FOTM).

The force has carried out an assessment of its ability to provide neighbourhood policing and, in our view, it has accurately identified both its strengths and areas for development. This includes improving information sharing with partners and systematically using problem-solving plans. Performance is monitored through the strategic neighbourhood policing board chaired by a dedicated chief officer.

Allied to its neighbourhood policing strategy the force has a crime and incident prevention strategy. This follows the national crime prevention strategy and what are described as, primary, secondary and tertiary crime prevention approaches which are described in more detail below.

Primary prevention

Primary prevention involves the police and partners working together on evidence‑based problem-solving approaches. The aim is to achieve a consistent and sustainable way of reducing crime, antisocial behaviour, vulnerability and disruption to the rail network. For example, a specialist crime prevention advisor works with partners (such as Network Rail) to determine environmental factors such as lighting, gating or barriers that could be improved to reduce the potential for crime. The force had 27 active problem-solving plans in place at the time of our inspection, all of which were monitored and quality assured by the same lead officer.

Secondary prevention

Secondary prevention involves NPTs working with partners to support and deter those who are at risk of being drawn into a life of criminality or antisocial behaviour – or conversely where their ability to look after themselves means they are considered vulnerable. Examples of this include young people coerced into county lines criminality or those who might repeatedly trespass on the network presenting a risk of suicide.

Tertiary prevention

Tertiary prevention involves the use of established offender management processes which include partner agencies, such as the probation service or the use of preventative orders such as a Criminal Behaviour Order.

BTP has 27 established NPTs across its network. Insight into neighbourhood policing demand and crime levels in BTP has helped the force establish three core priorities for NPTs which are:

  • Sexually motivated offences. The force told us there has been an increase of 172 percent in reported crimes of sexual harassment across the rail network between the year ending 31 March 2019 and the year ending 31 March 2022. The force considers this is likely to continue given its continued efforts to improve confidence in reporting.
  • Concern for welfare and mental health. The force told us there has been a rise of 44 percent in crisis interventions and a rise of 7 percent in lifesaving interventions between the year ending 31 March 2019 and the year ending 31 March 2022. It considers the rises to be related to the post-pandemic mental health impact.
  • Antisocial behaviour related crime. The force told us there has been a 9 percent reduction in reported antisocial behaviour and 16 percent reduction in all violent crime between the year ending 31 March 2019 and the year ending 31 March 2022. The current data indicates that reports of these offences have fallen, but insight from NPTs suggests more demand on BTP is likely if partners reduce their staffing levels following post-pandemic reductions in passenger numbers.
  • We found that the workforce largely understands its roles in meeting these priorities. During our fieldwork many neighbourhoods’ policing staff explained how their personal contribution made a difference. The chief constable chairs a monthly line manager briefing forum and all staff have access to Yammer, an online platform where suggestions and questions can be posed to departmental leads and the chief officer team. We think this is important, particularly to reassure some response officers who told us they felt less confident about the change in focus to neighbourhood policing priorities.

The force is effective at preventing crime, antisocial behaviour and vulnerability through collaborative working with the rail industry and other police and security partners. One example where the force responded swiftly to the learning from the Manchester Arena Inquiry is an integrated police and security pilot project. Started in April 2022, the project is live at 5 major train stations and aims to improve creativity and collaboration with industry partners and local Home Office police forces. They do this through joint briefings, deployments and shared problem-solving. This is helped by intelligence staff, referred to as collators. Collators use data from police and partners to establish emerging crime trends and problems in local areas. Problem profiles are then created to help co-ordinate a partnership approach to tackling issues. Collators have made a noticeable impact on this project through twice‑daily briefings, which include updates on problems, staff availability and intelligence requests.

During our fieldwork we received positive comments from partners who said they appreciate the potential benefits of closer working. We think the ability to send and receive information quickly between partners is positive. However, we found that there is no clear approach for sharing images with partners in relation to known vulnerable people, and we make further comment on this in the Protecting vulnerable people section.

The force collaborates with industry partners using formal agreements. This defines the roles of each partner, their contributions and expected outcomes. For example, to improve the joint response to cable theft, the force has an agreement to support the rail industry’s security improvements with surveillance technology. The force also supports the development of safeguarding practice with industry partners. A senior detective with safeguarding expertise is seconded to the Department for Transport and makes sure that safeguarding responsibilities are written into industry contracts and policies. We see this as a positive step to bring consistency of approach and to professionalise safeguarding across the network.

The force understands the strengths and needs of its communities and can identify those most at risk

The force has a good understanding of its diverse communities both in terms of rail passengers and the many organisations within the rail industry. BTP recognises the needs of communities and the complex challenges they face and uses survey data and forums to understand trends and concerns.

The use of the public text message service 61016, and the use of rail passenger and public attitude surveys provide the force with good insight into the concerns of the travelling public. Between October and December 2021, 54 percent of the 3,084 respondents to the force’s passenger survey felt safe when travelling on trains. Respondents asked for greater staff visibility, particularly in relation to antisocial behaviour, drunkenness and violence.

Campaigns to improve confidence to report sexually motivated offences have been partly responsible for steep rises in reports of sexual harassment. We found the force has responded quickly to address these concerns. Actions taken include moving more staff to an on-train presence, the use of disruption teams to target suspects and known offenders, and investment of £300,000 in late night train patrols. The force also has three regional IAGs to help determine community priorities, and neighbourhood staff also work with people in the community to carry out activities. These include pop‑up stands to talk with LGBTQ+ communities and those attending university freshers’ events.

The force understands that some victims find it difficult to report incidents to the police. To improve incident and crime reporting, especially among minority communities, the force has consulted charities including Tell MAMA, which uses social media platforms to reach and support Muslim victims of hate crime. This discussion means the force now has a better understanding of which platforms to use and how to target its communications with victims from minority communities in a more culturally sensitive way.

BTP neighbourhood officers also use ‘partners and communities together’ meetings. These advertised meetings provide regular opportunities for face-to-face discussion, which helps to establish policing priorities and how they can best be tackled. The force has also developed a database of key neighbourhood contacts to help understand and manage the community impact of critical events, such as the murder of Sarah Everard.

Where gaps in knowledge exist, BTP neighbourhood teams work with local police forces and community safety partnerships to share data and jointly solve community concerns. For example, in Reading and Leeds, BTP works with local police forces to tackle hotspots of violence in the nighttime economy. It also works with social care and outreach charities to reduce homelessness. We found that NPTs are encouraged to think of creative ways to work with communities. A ‘walk and talk’ initiative suggested by a member of staff is being trialled at ten locations as an opportunity for members of the public to join officers on patrol and increase understanding of local priorities.

To highlight the significant dangers of trespass on the network, in conjunction with Network Rail, BTP has developed an educational website called You vs Train. This is accompanied by an impactful video as an effective method of reaching younger audiences. Other campaigns have used focus groups with younger people to better understand what messages about knife crime and safety resonate with them most strongly. This helps the force tailor its communication more effectively. To bring prevention messages into schools the force has also partnered with the Leeds United Foundation to fund a multi-agency safety day of action.

Volunteer workforce

BTP values its volunteer workforce, whose contributions are recognised through newsletters, personal messages of thanks by the chief constable and through award ceremonies. One volunteer in Reading supports many station functions including promoting personal safety campaigns such as violence against women and girls (VAWG) and running the force’s volunteer Twitter account, which was recognised by a Citizens in Policing award. As a key member of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, the force also plans to train 36 volunteers in trauma impact prevention techniques to better support staff and fatality investigators. We look forward to seeing the effect this has.

In addition to the Special Constabulary, 71 police support volunteers make a valuable contribution to policing in many varied roles across the force. Working as cadets, pastors, chaplains and IAG members, volunteers support the force behind the scenes or in public-facing roles. In Bristol, for example, one volunteer is involved in work to help reduce suicide on the network. At St Pancras International station, volunteers work with Camden Borough in welcoming Ukrainian refugees fleeing war, and in Birmingham volunteers carry out property marking to reduce cycle thefts. However, the force faces challenges to recruit and retain enough volunteers outside London. This includes a lack of ethnic minority, female and youth volunteers. In response, the force has made training and development more accessible in locations across the country to better support those who have caring responsibilities or are less able to travel. To improve its ability to develop and retain its volunteer workforce, the force carries out exit interviews with those who leave the service.

The force told us that in 2021 its Special Constabulary supported 14,223 operational shifts and events. BTP is also the first force to train and equip 20 Special Constabulary officers with Taser, which provides the force with enhanced ability to keep the public safe.


BTP has a good record of adopting evidence-based problem-solving, particularly in relation to the prevention of trespass and suicide. At the time of our inspection, the force had 27 problem-solving plans in place. A dedicated inspector personally reviews all plans to ensure consistency in their use and effectiveness.

However, the use of problem-solving is sometimes localised and the force recognises it needs to make the adoption of it widespread across the force. It provides training for all frontline staff which is supported by 81 trained problem-solving champions and annual refresher training is also planned.

We audited 15 completed problem-solving plans as part of our inspection and found most were of a good quality. One that we assessed as an outstanding example involved rough sleeping and begging on station concourses. We saw excellent scanning and analysis which broke down the problem, coupled with a well-thought-out menu of interventions and evaluation. The author of the plan, a police community support officer, has attended training to become a problem-solving champion. However, we found that some response officers, were less aware that problem-solving could be applied to complex social problems, such as begging, youth violence and homelessness.

Some successful problem-solving plans assessed as exceptional practice by the force were put forward for a national problem-solving award. One example involved dangerous and antisocial behaviour at Hengoed station, Caerphilly, which has been reduced through a proactive multi-agency approach to identify offenders and increase high-visibility patrols. Offences, including arson and staff assaults, were reduced through interventions which included arrests, use of dispersal orders, advice, counselling and education. The force told us that within a month, calls for service reduced from 114 to 53.

Effective problem-solving with partner organisations was also used as a crucial intervention to safeguard homeless people during the pandemic. The neighbourhood team in Camden, North London, formulated an initiative with rail and community partners and secured local authority funding to support joint patrols with civil officers, Network Rail and charity partners. These efforts helped identify individuals who were high risk and helped them gain support from agencies that safeguarded their physical and mental well-being throughout the pandemic.

The force works collaboratively with some rail industry partners through a group known as the Rail Safety Accreditation Scheme. The objective is to use both police and partner resources to tackle crime, antisocial behaviour and vulnerability. The chief constable has delegated certain safeguarding powers to accredited Rail Safety Accreditation Scheme staff whose skills and knowledge are assured under the scheme through formal training and assessment. At the time of our inspection, it was too early for us to attribute any benefit, but we think the scheme shows significant potential to safeguard more vulnerable people and reduce demand on BTP, and disruption to the wider rail industry.

The force understands the demands facing neighbourhood policing teams and manages resources well

The shift in BTP’s operating model to reflect neighbourhood policing priorities signifies a revised commitment by the force to make the best use of its resources to manage current and future demand. BTP now has 27 locations from where neighbourhood policing operates across the network.

To improve police response times and address concerns about public safety, neighbourhood and response police officers now carry out more mobile patrols from trains rather than from in and around train stations. Nevertheless, while some BTP stations such as Edinburgh reported improvements in neighbourhood policing numbers, we found significant vacancies in others, such as the station in Leeds. We make further comment on how the force deals with recruitment challenges in our assessment of workforce later in this report.

Where resource gaps exist, we found staff are less convinced that the force prioritises local policing. Some neighbourhood officers complained that they are repeatedly abstracted from their normal roles for football-related duties. Some officers say that this dilutes their ability to work on neighbourhood priorities and can mean that in remote areas police community support officers are left alone to respond to incidents.

Though the force has a neighbourhood policing abstraction policy we found that its existence wasn’t well understood by supervisors or some senior managers. However, its neighbourhood policing board does scrutinise abstractions, and in a recent meeting we saw evidence that this was being reviewed to ensure individual officers weren’t being unfairly treated.

Senior leaders recognise the importance and value of neighbourhood policing

The commitment shown by senior leaders to neighbourhood policing is clearly reflected in both the force strategy and FOTM, BTP’s transformation programme.

The force makes good use of social media to promote the work of its NPTs and holds annual award events, which include recognition of achievements by police officers, police community support officers, staff, volunteers and partner organisations. Examples provided earlier in this report demonstrate the pride and esteem that the force has for its nominees in the national problem-solving awards, the Tilley Awards. Through these awards, the force is able to share with others nationally evidence of what works.

The force ensures that continuing professional development is built into neighbourhood policing

Neighbourhood staff receive the training they need to carry out the core requirements of their role. As described earlier, the force is rolling out specially commissioned problem-solving training, and force plans also describe an intention to build on the College of Policing training for all staff involved in neighbourhood roles.

However, some staff told us that when applying for courses such as Taser, they weren’t given feedback on why their request for additional training was rejected. This can have a detrimental impact upon the way some staff view the value the force places upon them.

Protecting vulnerable people

BTP is good at protecting vulnerable people. In this section we set out our most noteworthy findings for this question.

Innovative practice

British Transport Police makes good use of technology and publicity campaigns to raise public awareness of violence against women and girls and increase confidence to report these crimes

The commitment by the force and partners, including Network Rail and Transport for London, to raise public awareness of violence against women and girls is impressive. In late 2019, the force began recording reports of unwanted sexual behaviour. The force told us that extensive and provocative campaigns, and a new anonymous reporting channel, have contributed to an additional 1,020 reports in 2021 (this accounts for the 177 percent increase on the previous partially recorded year). Analysis of data also helps the force to deploy officers in hotspot locations. At the time of our inspection, the force was about to introduce a public-facing Railway Guardian digital app for mobile devices. This app aims to raise awareness of these crimes among the wider travelling public, by making it easier for people to recognise and report such behaviour. Supported by other advertising and social media influencers, men are encouraged to have conversations as part of the solution to making unwanted sexual behaviours socially unacceptable.

Innovative practice

British Transport Police works effectively with healthcare professionals to identify and support people in mental health crisis and protect them from significant risk of harm on the railway network

One third of crisis interventions across the railway network involve the same people who repeatedly present to the police at risk and are often in extreme distress. To reduce the risk and manage demand the force collaborated with mental health partners in the Southeast and Central network routes. In April 2021, a funded pilot created an intervention team of harm reduction officers known as HaRT. They provide tailored help to people who frequently present in crisis to the police. Cases are managed collaboratively with mental health professionals to reduce demand and improve the quality of life and resilience of service users.

The force has carried out an evaluation of the pilot which shows that in the first year of operation, HaRT officers helped 165 individuals. Of those, 66 have not re‑presented to the police in crisis. The evaluation also reported that service users were less likely to be detained for mental health assessment and that more than £1.1m was saved in rail industry disruption costs. This appears to be a good investment.

We saw the positive difference made by the team, some of which was expressed in the feedback of service users. One said: “I genuinely believe that if you hadn’t come that day, I would have probably tried taking my life or take myself back to the railway.” Meetings that we observed confirmed that many people supported by HaRT officers and a designated mental health nurse not only develop more effective strategies for managing their mental health but go on to gain stable housing, employment and training skills. In one example a service user became a mentor to support others in crisis. While supportive diversion is the primary aim, in other cases a Criminal Behaviour Order is more appropriate, and this too has proved equally effective in the cases we saw.

Main findings

Strategy and policy

BTP’s strategic review of vulnerability in 2018/19 provided insight into the scale and nature of vulnerability encountered by the force. The outcome has improved governance structures within the force and influenced national policy and practice in areas of vulnerability such as county lines criminality and, more recently, suicide. This includes victim feedback in the development of policy and strategy, and we report on this as positive practice further in this report.

Safeguarding the vulnerable is prioritised in the force’s strategic assessment and translates into several areas of work. These include:

  • plans to tackle modern-day slavery and human trafficking;
  • sexual offences including violence and intimidation against women and girls (VAWG);
  • death and serious injury on the railway;
  • child and adult sexual exploitation and abuse; and
  • assaults on police and workplace violence.

Building on the strategic assessment, the force adopts all elements of the National Vulnerability Action Plan (NVAP) which is collectively progressed through a Public Protection and Vulnerability Improvement Plan. The plan demonstrates significant levels of development across all 15 strands of vulnerability and actions are monitored and governed through the force’s public protection improvement board. The force has also developed its victim survey and referrals process with the support of specialist charity partners to help ensure that the views of victims influence policy and strategy. We found that the improvement plan is comprehensive, with good evidence of progress already made. However, the methodology for evaluating its impact was less clear.

In February 2022, the portfolio lead for vulnerability commissioned the Vulnerability Knowledge & Practice Programme to carry out a thematic peer review of BTP, examining the force response to suicide and crisis interventions, and progress against NVAP actions. The review provided the force with a number of useful recommendations, which are being progressed within its vulnerability improvement plan. It also hailed aspects of the force’s approach to suicide prevention for national consideration in NVAP. This is positive and demonstrates that the force is keen to advance professional practice nationally and safeguard the public.


As a centralised command structure, the Public Protection and Vulnerability Command oversees all safeguarding and vulnerability work within the force. While it is led by a senior detective, the command has access to subject matter experts, including a former head of children’s social care. These experts help the force respond to and develop policy in areas such as child exploitation. Other vulnerability experts support and guide detectives in locally based units, as well as the wider workforce. This is important because there are high levels of vulnerability, suicide prevention and mental health demand, and expert advice helps develop a workforce that can deal effectively with these complex risks.


BTP has access to a significant range of multi-agency partner data. It uses this data well to analyse and improve its understanding of vulnerability across the rail network. For example, the force makes referrals to Railway Children to help reduce the risk to some young people who may be susceptible to exploitation. More recently, the force has sought their feedback to help it understand the experience of the child and improve the way it responds to missing persons.

The force uses Home Office funding to tackle county lines criminality through a dedicated task force of officers. And a dedicated vulnerability analyst uses police and partner data to provide a more informed picture of unseen factors that contribute to some crimes. For example, work with the National Crime Agency has established that 6 percent of female suspects involved in county lines criminality or modern-day slavery are linked to the recruitment of children. Such insights mean that the force is better able to work with The Children’s Society, the rail industry and other third sector partners to develop interventions.

Operational practice

To help make the railway a hostile environment for organised criminals who exploit vulnerable people, BTP works with other police forces and specialist partners during national county lines criminality weeks or action. The force told us that in February 2022 one such week of action in the southwest of England resulted in the arrest of 78 people, seized drugs and cash, and safeguarded vulnerable children who were caught up in these crimes.

The force has commissioned a modern-day slavery and human trafficking specialist investigators course. It has also appointed many champions across the force who help frontline staff to identify these offences.

The National Referral Mechanism is a process used to identify victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensure they receive the appropriate support. Investigators make referrals to the National Referral Mechanism, and they ensure that this includes information from social services on vulnerable people. This is positive and ensures that risk is assessed on the best available information, which supports improved safeguarding practice and more tailored support for victims.

The force works closely in support of the Government’s national VAWG strategy and develops its own force specific response through a detailed problem profile and corporate action plan. The plan makes use of the force’s centralised surveillance team and a proactive disruption team to identify and catch sexual predators who use the rail network as a means of facilitating their crimes. The force also carried out over 1,500 VAWG targeted patrols in the year ending 31 March 2021.

The force reports that it has also invested significant resources in the development of its Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) unit which works with other police, prisons and the Probation Service to co-ordinate offender management. The ViSOR unit also co-ordinates the processes that secure referral, detention and deportation of identified foreign national offenders. The force understands the benefit of ancillary prevention orders which help restrict the movements of suspects as further protection measures. In the year ending 31 March 2022, the force issued 62 sexual harm prevention orders and 23 Criminal Behaviour Orders against relevant offenders in England and Wales.

Since 2019, BTP has identified 50 VAWG crime suspects of whom 19 were registered on the ViSOR. The force vulnerability improvement plan has highlighted the continuing development of joint working with other police force ViSOR units. The aim is to improve its ability to jointly manage the risk of those offenders who operate on the rail network. However, we found there was an inconsistent level of knowledge among NPTs as to who their high-harm offenders were. Some staff were confident that they were able to identify high-harm offenders through digital intelligence briefings, but this wasn’t consistent. Others said they wouldn’t know if a registered sex offender was homeless and sleeping rough in their area. The force should consider establishing a clear and consistent process for briefing neighbourhood staff on high-risk and harm offenders.

The force has a comprehensive understanding of the actions needed to tackle risks associated with death across the rail network

Deaths from suicide across the network decreased marginally in 2021. Positively, in its 2022 force management statement, BTP reports a 44 percent increase in crisis interventions as well as a 7 percent increase in lifesaving interventions across the network. In December 2021 alone, the force reports its officers responded to 732 crisis interventions.

The efforts made by the force in partnership with the rail industry, some NHS trusts, and charities such as Samaritans to safeguard those in mental health crisis is positive. However, the variation in mental health priorities and pathways nationally presents a vast challenge to the force and the people it finds in crisis. During our fieldwork we found distinct variations. In some areas officers had good access to a mental health nurse who provided information on patient care plans and gave expert advice which helped reduce the need to detain vulnerable individuals for assessment. In other areas we saw a less consistent response. In one example, officers told us that calls for support to mental health on-call practitioners went unanswered and one person waited with officers for two days for assessment. Local police leaders in those areas told us they felt that they had neither the knowledge nor influence to achieve a swifter response. The force should consider ways to transfer its success and practice in crisis intervention to other areas of the rail network.

The force promotes information exchange to inform safeguarding and works closely with the rail industry on shared safeguarding priorities. However, partners told us that image data of many high-risk vulnerable people who frequently present on railway premises isn’t shared by the force unless there is an immediate threat to life. This makes it difficult for relevant partners to identify vulnerable and frequent missing persons or those who are known for recurrent threats of suicide on the railway. Some partners said they resorted to sharing CCTV imagery to try and overcome this need. The force would benefit from establishing the barriers to sharing image data in the best interests of safeguarding.

During our inspection we found a culture of professional curiosity among BTP staff, when dealing with the public, with vulnerability being identified and appropriate action to safeguard individuals being taken. Staff spoke confidently about how to spot child criminal exploitation and mental health concerns. But many said that it is difficult to access vulnerability information held by Police Scotland and Home Office forces. Checks, particularly out of hours, can take up to 40 minutes and officers say it makes it difficult to justify detaining people for these periods. Police Scotland operates its own vulnerability database and it has agreed to share access with BTP. We are surprised that this agreement has not yet been implemented, leaving BTP without access. Staff that we spoke with were, however, resolute that they wouldn’t allow a young person to leave if they considered that they were vulnerable without first making the right intelligence checks to understand the risks.

As first responders, BTP police officers and staff make good use of an extensive portal of guidance on their mobile devices to help signpost vulnerable people to local services for early help and support. We found that staff took responsibility for situational safeguarding, making direct referrals to other police forces, social care or guardians themselves, rather than merely filling in vulnerability referral forms.

However, where required, officers do make vulnerability referrals on their mobile devices which they describe as intuitive and easy to use. These referrals are made to a central vulnerability referral unit in the force. The vulnerability referral unit triages the level of risk involved before carrying out further research on those cases and then sharing a clear assessment of findings with relevant agencies. Some referrals require a simpler approach such as referral to charities who work with children and families on safeguarding against risks on the railway. Other referrals require notification to multi-agency safeguarding hubs across the UK for further safeguarding considerations.

In its 2022 force management statement, the force told us it made 3,696 vulnerable adult referrals, an increase of 14 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year. Likewise, it made 10,038 child and young person referrals, an increase of 15 percent. We found that existing staff in the unit struggle to cope with these increasing levels of demand. However, force plans show further investment of staff is planned throughout 2022.

All members of the unit have received additional vulnerability training which provides them with a better understanding of statutory safeguarding roles and the level of detail required when researching and sharing referrals. We found that most referrals were of a good standard that showed clear research, assessment of risk and detail which included the voice of the child or individual concerned.

However, due to the success of many safeguarding campaigns and a 12 percent vacancy gap in the vulnerability referral unit we found a backlog of 835 vulnerability referrals in July 2022. Although this is a marginal improvement from the backlog of 900 cases recorded in May 2022 this still equates to an average 10-day process time for low and medium-risk referrals. However, we are reassured that all referrals undergo an initial triage process to prioritise the highest risk.

The force is progressing a realistic six-month plan to increase capacity and reduce backlogs. This includes eliminating assessment of notifications that have already been dealt with by another force or healthcare organisation. It also includes an improved recruitment plan based upon a cycle of expected vacancies which reduces previous delays of up to three months. Streamlined vetting, training and induction are also other areas where the force has improved the timeliness to recruit to vacancies within the department.

A specialist vulnerability team as a central resource works to support both the vulnerability referral hub and investigators. They provide oversight and direction of high-risk and harm cases where immediate safeguarding action with other police and local authorities is needed. Experienced in the statutory requirements of multi‑agency safeguarding, this small, proactive team help investigators to develop their skills and knowledge in care planning and strategy meetings. This is important as most social care interventions rely upon information shared in strategy meetings that demonstrate the threshold for intervention. One recent example meant that a young person arrested at 8am on suspicion of being involved in serious and organised criminality was found to be a vulnerable asylum seeker and was being controlled by criminal gangs. Following an emergency strategy meeting with social care partners, the young person was provided with supportive accommodation within five hours and investigators devised a care plan that protected this young person from further criminal influence.

Part of BTP’s joint work with the National Crime Agency on county lines criminality now includes routine analysis of previously untapped industry data. This has led to improved safeguarding, particularly in relation to children who are looked after by social care. As a result, there is a more sophisticated understanding of young people’s behaviours. This elicits a better understanding of those who should be treated more as victims than offenders. For example, data shared by TOCs on 4,500 fixed penalty notices issued by them were analysed for opportunities to improve working practices. This revealed that 1 child was issued with a penalty notice on 66 separate occasions, yet further research would have shown that this child was known to be at high risk of sexual exploitation and county lines criminality. In another case a child aged just eight was identified as unaccompanied. In both of these cases, information was subsequently shared with children’s social care and local police forces to protect those involved from risk of future harm.

To prevent siloed working and improve safeguarding efforts across the rail network, BTP is working with the Department for Transport in the roll out of the Safeguarding on Rail Scheme. The objective is for TOC staff to identify and carry out safeguarding activity for those in need. This includes making vulnerability referrals to the force. Some eight TOCs were signed up and engaged in accredited training at the time of our inspection. Though it is too early to predict outcomes, the scheme has significant potential to improve the industry’s response to vulnerable people through personal intervention, consistent referral processes and participation in prevention activities with partner organisations.

BTP supports UK Government departments on Mental Health Act reform as consultees to policy on people in crisis and the pathways that support them. The force is also an active member of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance. The alliance makes sure there is effective data sharing between partners and helps analyse trends which have the potential to improve national public health policy.

Work by BTP and the National Crime Agency has identified that 40 percent of young people involved in county-lines-linked crime use the rail network to help assist this criminality. As a result, the force set up a county lines task force which is governed with board expertise from Children’s Services and associated charities as well as specialist staff seconded to BTP. This helps to develop consistency in safeguarding policy and practice across the rail industry and has led to the appointment of safeguarding and travel safe managers by some partner organisations.

National protocol to safeguard young people

British Transport Police has established a national protocol that not only safeguards young people from potential harm and exploitation but creates a shared intelligence picture on factors that lead to risk-taking behaviour.

Operation Compass is a British Transport Police-led information sharing protocol with Home Office police forces. It identifies missing young people who use the rail network or those who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation or county lines criminality. This provides both British Transport Police, local police forces and children’s social care with valuable information to build a picture of risk and factors that influence the child’s risk-taking behaviour. The opportunity to exploit police, penalty fare and social care data helps to provide a shared intelligence picture of risk. In one example, a young female at risk of exploitation was found to have travelled between Sheffield and Brighton on 12 occasions. This information was previously unknown to agencies and meant a new tailored care plan was developed to mitigate the potential for future harm.

We found that joint working with charities and the railway industry is a strength that improves professional safeguarding practice throughout the rail network. BTP’s vulnerability unit works with charities, children’s social care and regional violence reduction units. The force was also quick to recognise the high likelihood that people fleeing war in Ukraine could be exploited by criminals, and set up a proactive response at St Pancras International station where many of them were arriving.

During interviews and focus groups partners spoke positively about the knowledge and skill shown by BTP staff and, in particular, newer in-service officers who showed an understanding of trauma when dealing with some suspects and victims.

The force works in collaboration with external academics and many organisations to improve the service it provides to victims. BTP has recently commissioned a study by Cambridge University in a three-year programme of work to better understand the impact of violence and intimidation against women and girls. The ambition is to increase trust, confidence and reporting, which in our view supports the force commitment to listen and respond to the needs of victims.

Learning lessons from fatalities on the rail network

British Transport Police works collaboratively with bereaved families and support organisations to make sure that, where possible, lessons are learned from fatalities on the rail network.

The force has a noteworthy history of effective work with Samaritans on several suicide prevention campaigns. Feedback from the families of those who have lost someone through suicide has also improved how the force communicates and works with bereaved relatives. As part of the investigation into any death on the railway network the force makes referrals to mental health trusts, GPs and other relevant bodies, such as the Care Quality Commission. This allows a system-wide review to ascertain what services were open to the individual at the time of their death and where appropriate, learning is highlighted to improve future practice. This includes a focus on the bereaved, who may be supported at anniversary or other significant dates.

We were particularly impressed by a film that British Transport Police and Network Rail have developed, working with media producers, specialist advisors and the bereaved parents of an 11-year-old boy. The tragic death of their vibrant child, who lost his life at a rail freight depot, was told through a sensitive yet powerful video film. Aimed at a peer audience, the video helps educate young people about the unpredictable dangers on the railway.

The force understands the demand it faces and the resources it needs

Despite increases in vulnerability-related demand, the force has maintained its commitment to make sure that every rape and serious sexual assault is investigated by a trained and accredited detective. The force achieves this through a rapid development pathway for temporary detectives. The pathway is defined by a managed programme of training and development to support and mitigate against the relative inexperience of new candidates.

Ongoing professional development of the workforce and rail industry partners such as train operating companies also helps the force to manage current and future demand. In 2021, the force held a series of vulnerability roadshows attended by over 500 staff. The aim was to instil professional curiosity in staff and help them develop the skills and practice that may determine hidden harm, such as coercive and controlling behaviour. Subjects covered were extensive and included forced marriage, honour‑based abuse, modern slavery, bereavement, management of sexual offenders and adverse childhood experiences. To help prepare new recruits for their role in relation to county lines criminality and suicide, the force has also developed immersive training known as Hydra. This uses real-life video simulations and gives candidates the opportunity to learn from their own and peer responses.

At the time of our inspection, the force had also begun a rollout of further training called the Vulnerability Training Project. This is comprehensive training includes foundation knowledge on human development, adverse experiences and trauma‑informed practice. The plan for this training to reach all frontline officers and supervisors is a welcome step to improving the capability and confidence of the wider workforce. Though many staff told us that they make good use of comprehensive vulnerability information through the app on their mobile devices, others said they had only ever carried out mandatory online training through the College of Policing curriculum.

The force maintains and acts to improve the well-being of staff in public protection roles and those exposed to trauma

The force has a well-being strategy and officers and staff involved in traumatic incidents are offered well-being support. All staff have access to the force’s well-being, health and safety hub as a central point of reference where support can be found. This includes:

The force has adopted a systematic approach to offering TRiM support to all its officers who attend fatalities, near-fatalities, sudden deaths and assaults.

During our fieldwork we spoke with staff in frontline responder and specialist investigator public protection roles. Many spoke positively about the useful range of well-being information available through the hub. However, some staff said that referrals to occupational health aren’t always met with a timely response, and on one occasion an officer said they received no response at all. We make further comment on provision and action taken to improve services in our examination of workforce later in this report.

Reducing workplace violence and protecting staff is a high priority both for the force and industry partners. The BTP workplace violence coordination unit provides detailed problem profiles against specific hotspot locations that suffer violence and rail staff assaults. Meetings with various stakeholders take place to develop detailed problem profiles. This involves surveying victims to understand their concerns, and perceptions of threats, including those who are reluctant to support a prosecution. Recommendations are made to improve working practices and progress is monitored locally and through the rail delivery group meetings. This is positive – it reduces the opportunity for repeat victimisation and improves the safety and confidence of staff.

Disrupting serious organised crime

Serious and organised crime (SOC) is tackled by each Home Office force in partnership with regional organised crime units (ROCUs). These units lead the regional response to SOC by providing access to specialist resources and assets to disrupt organised crime groups that pose the highest harm.

However, unlike some Home Office forces, BTP operates in a unique national space and for this reason the force has its own covert capabilities. Nevertheless, the force can and does work with ROCUs. Forces and ROCUs are now graded and reported on in regional SOC reports.

British Transport Police is adequate at managing SOC. Read ‘An inspection of the London regional response to serious and organised crime’.

Building, supporting and protecting the workforce

BTP is good at building and developing its workforce. In this section we set out our most noteworthy findings for this question.

Innovative practice

Inclusive coaching practice in British Transport Police means the force benefits from more diverse talent

In 2020, the force workforce strategy outlined that coaches and mentors in British Transport Police were mostly White women. The availability of coaching and mentoring wasn’t well known unless staff were preparing for a promotion board, and some staff we surveyed said going through their line managers to access a coach felt like failing.

To improve this situation, the force aimed to develop a team of coaches comprising people with a disability and from ethnic minority groups. It invested in a dedicated coaching lead and brought in an external coaching expert who specialises in developing diverse teams. This led to a programme to improve equality, diversity and inclusion, called ‘Mastering Your Power’. It helped staff to find a coach who could offer support based upon a shared understanding of their experience. This collaboration won the 2021 Public Services People Management Association award for Best Diversity Inclusion Initiative. The force now has over 100 coaches and mentors, 20 of whom are studying a university-accredited level 5 coaching qualification.

Main findings

The force promotes an ethical and inclusive culture at all levels

BTP is a large force spanning the whole of Great Britain, and its leaders have worked hard to establish a shared and inclusive culture. As a statement of standards and values ‘We are one BTP’ is reflected in policies, training and communication materials. Officers and staff demonstrated their commitment to these values to us. They proudly described how their contributions showed that they cared and how, through reflective practice, they strived to be better and do the right thing.

We found a good understanding of the Code of Ethics giving officers and staff the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour. Many described their awareness of behaviours that undermine trust and confidence in policing, such as misogyny or abuse of position for a sexual purpose.

This confirmed the findings of a recent force survey where 89 percent of respondents said that they would recognise inappropriate behaviour and 79 percent said they would be confident to report it. Overwhelmingly, staff told us that they take pride in upholding standards and appreciated the proactive efforts made by the force to root out inappropriate behaviour. One staff member said that they weren’t prepared to allow poor standards to tarnish the reputation of their force, which was a sentiment expressed by many in our interviews.

The force approach to learning from misconduct cases, including final written warnings and dismissals, is well publicised and reflected in force communications, reflective practice and ethical dilemma training. The force has plans to start its own ethics board, which will be led by a chief officer. However, this was not in place at the time of our inspection. Although most staff have a working knowledge of standards around gifts and hospitality, we saw that some were less aware of force policy in this area. The force may wish to consider using its annual staff appraisal to check how well such policies are understood.

As a result of a campaign aimed at increasing confidence to report wrongdoing in the workplace, the force told us it has seen a 15 percent increase to its ‘Speak Out’ confidential reporting line. Other proactive efforts made by the force’s PSD include benchmarking against high-profile reports such as the recommendations of Operation Hotton on misogyny in policing. It also provides frequent roadshows and video briefings on conduct and integrity issues. In addition, the PSD has recently published a pledge clearly setting out the standards of support it will provide to staff during an investigation. This was illustrated when one officer told us that they were listened to and taken seriously when they acted as a witness in a PSD investigation.

In training and in forums, we saw that staff are encouraged to ask difficult questions to better understand differing views, norms or cultural sensitivities. This was evident through working with staff networks as well as conversations on Yammer where staff debated ‘woke’ as an emerging term to describe racial prejudice and discrimination and what it meant to them both as individuals and as part of the force.

During our inspection we found a strong sense of belonging in BTP. This was also reported by many staff from ethnic minority groups as well as those with other protected characteristics. The force has a draft five-year inclusion and diversity strategy and progress is monitored by the chief constable who chairs the equality, diversity and inclusion board. We spoke with staff who told us how the force has created a level playing field which provides equality of opportunity through mentoring and coaching and is backed up by the force’s Moving The Needle action plan, which forms part of the force’s inclusion and diversity strategy. Some also told us that the force uses the Equalities Act legislation to prioritise under-represented candidates over others who are scored with equal merit. In celebration of Black History Month, 500 staff attended sessions and engaged with other force race and inclusion leads.

The force understands the well-being of its workforce and uses this to develop effective plans to make further improvements

The force has a well-being strategy and action plan which covers both physical and psychological well-being, and progress is monitored at board level by the director of people and culture. The objective of the board is to improve the well-being and health and safety of staff by preventing work-related injury and ill health. Through the use of data, analysis and staff surveys the force has a good understanding of factors that influence the well-being of its workforce. The force has invested in technology that helps it to determine both the psychological factors and circumstances where assaults are experienced by staff. It has also benchmarked its services using the Blue Light Wellbeing Framework.

However, the most recent staff survey, published in September 2022, worryingly reported that only 36 percent of respondents felt that well-being was a force priority. During interviews staff told us that previous delays in accessing occupational health services left many of them feeling significantly underwhelmed by their experience. However, as the most assaulted police force in the country, senior leads prioritised investment in well-being and we are pleased that much-needed progress is now being made to address this. We noted several improvements including renegotiating contracts for specialist psychological support and improved pay offers, which has led to the appointment of three further occupational health advisors. The force plans to undertake psychological role profiling and risk assessment as part of its commitment to staff well-being. This is necessary because in the course of their job, some officers and staff are exposed to particularly distressing experiences, materials and information, including suicide and reviewing CCTV of such traumatic incidents.

This can affect mental and emotional health and well-being. The profiling and risk assessment the force plans will help establish those roles where proactive clinical support is needed. The force is also introducing an apprenticeship pathway to grow its own pool of in-house occupational health nurses.

The force maintains and improves the well-being of its workforce and understands the effect of the action it is taking

We are reassured by the force’s investment in occupational health. Efforts being made to improve the timeliness of services include self-referral options and escalation procedures for staff who require specialist support faster than the current two-week waiting period.

BTP staff benefit from an extensive online well-being hub to help them improve their physical and mental well-being. Material available provides advice and links to a range of issues including menopause, neurodiversity, caring, financial difficulties and stress management. The force well-being team raises awareness through roadshows, line manager training and video briefings. The force has also invested in a trauma post-incident desk, which we think is an important step to ensure timely support is provided to all staff who respond to stressful incidents. However, the challenge for the force remains communicating improvements to staff, some of whom are sceptical from their previous experience and suffering from the effects of regularly responding to stressful incidents.

Health and well-being is a core strand in all leadership training within the force. Encouragingly when we spoke with staff no one felt any stigma in relation to mental or physical well-being and many freely discussed the barriers to healthy masculinity and male suicide. Many said that no subject was taboo or off limits and, positively, others said they valued the support provided by a strong network of peer supporters, some of whom have experience of domestic abuse and bereavement.

The force has taken a proactive approach to managing stress and trauma. It has invested in TRiM practitioners to debrief staff involved in fatalities, near-fatalities, sudden deaths and assaults. Part of their training also includes trauma impact processing techniques. This helps them to spot the early signs of stress and trauma among colleagues, and to provide coping techniques and access to support services. Under the TRiM process, staff involved are flagged through the command-and-control system and a TRiM co-ordinator contacts everyone involved, usually within 24 hours. TRiM practitioners make people aware of the support services that are available and can make direct referrals to specialist occupational health support. However, in Scotland the take up of TRiM among officers is low. Staff told us that it wasn’t fully used because there was too much familiarity among small teams. The force plans to overcome this through the use of TRiM practitioners from other areas to help bust myths about the service and demonstrate the value of the process.

Staff with a disability can complete a disability passport which is aligned with their HR records. The passport records relevant information, specifically any reasonable adjustments necessary to allow the individual to do their job, and reduces the stress of moving posts as their arrangement moves with them.

In a recent staff survey, 24 percent of respondents said that they don’t see themselves working for BTP in two years’ time. Many cited pay as a factor but some also expressed concern that the force’s core shift pattern doesn’t necessarily provide for a healthy work-life balance. (The force report that the survey closed one week before the police staff 2022 pay award was announced.)

Responding to this, the force has trialled an alternative shift pattern in one policing area which has been positively received. However, this coincides with an end-to-end review of its capability to achieve the most efficient operating model. As a result, a decision on the wider roll out of the alternative shift pattern has been delayed. The force has carried out a fatigue survey of its staff but at the time of our inspection the results weren’t known. Nevertheless, some staff told us they are tired because they feel stretched due to the gaps in recruitment. Careful communication will need to be considered to avoid unnecessarily prolonging this issue.

The force is building its workforce for the future

During our inspection we found that BTP understands its recruitment needs and has a comprehensive plan to deal with this significant organisational risk. The force told us that in the summer of 2022, 11 percent of BTP posts were vacant, which included approximately 20 percent of communications staff and 8 percent of police officer posts.

The force’s ability to fill these vacancies has been challenged by unprecedented factors including competing with Home Office forces in the Police Uplift Programme where those forces are recruiting an additional 20,000 officers over 3 years. Other vacancy challenges, including filling essential roles such as occupational health advisors, are more closely linked to post-pandemic increases in market pay.

In terms of recruiting people from ethnic minority communities, the force compares favourably to the 43 Home Office forces, with 10.7 percent of its police officers in England and Wales from ethnic minority groups as of 31 March 2022, compared to 8.1 percent across all forces in England and Wales. But it is ranked bottom for its proportion of female officers, at 31 percent.

External consultants used by the force have identified various barriers to recruiting women as police officers. These include perceptions that policing the rail network is industrial, dirty, and work locations are remote. In response, the force is promoting the changes it has made, including greater choice of working locations, talent management programmes and opportunities to specialise and gain further qualifications. In meetings we saw that the chief constable also challenges existing norms and is keen to install family-friendly policies, which includes a presumption that most roles should be available to part-time workers.

The force is also commissioning an external review of its recruitment processes and advertises the highest police officer starting salary in England and Wales. However, this excludes officers in Scotland who could be paid more by joining Police Scotland. But senior officers tell us that a review of their pay is underway. Meanwhile, the force has increased starter pay and offered travel concessions for control room staff. It has also increased pay and allowances for occupational health and health and safety staff, which was deemed necessary to reflect the competitive external market for these skills.

To attract more diverse candidates into senior positions BTP has started collaborating with Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Hertfordshire Constabulary, and the Metropolitan Police. Together they have set up a women of colour group to help develop people and remove barriers to progression. The force is also working alongside colleges and universities to encourage more female joiners. Positively, the force told us that 51 percent of applicants to its fast-track detective programme are female, and 31 percent are from ethnic minority groups.

BTP frequently engages with its workforce to understand their views

Positively, the latest annual workforce survey was completed by 63 percent of the staff, which the force says is its best completion rate to date. The chief constable has recently led follow up ‘Have your say’ sessions where the survey results were presented and discussed. These sessions form the basis of an action plan which includes greater efforts to improve upon the poor outcome that 36 percent of respondents said they have trust and confidence in superintendent ranks, police staff equivalent and above. We discussed this with people during our fieldwork. They told us that visibility and engagement with senior leaders had improved since the survey, but they felt that workloads were unfair due to a legacy of recruitment vacancies.

The force is developing its workforce to be fit for the future

Strategy and governance

During our inspection we saw that the force has a good understanding of its recruitment needs, the cost of workforce attrition and its priority areas for investment, which is set out in its strategic workforce plan. A chief officer chairs the workforce planning board, which examines data on vacancy rates, turnover, higher-grade duties, abstractions (where an officer is assigned away from their normal duties or role) and deployment ratios. At the time of our inspection, the board was overseeing data from the first phase of its capability reviews. The objective of these reviews is to rebalance assets to meet current and future demand more efficiently. This activity also informs the development of other co-dependent strategies such as estates, learning and development (L&D) and IT as key components of a three-year transformation programme known as ‘A Force on the Move’ (FOTM).

One aim of the L&D strategy is to encourage staff to develop into other roles rather than to leave BTP. The force has invested extensively in ‘MyLearn’, an online development portal that is built around the individual employee. This offers suggested training pathways that are commensurate with roles, objectives or personal interests and includes a broad range of academic and vocational qualifications. We spoke with some staff who had used the national Apprenticeship Levy to build new career paths as trainers and in policy development. One also said that they had used this to gain two academic degrees. However, some probationary staff told us that the geography of the force is the main barrier. This is because it is difficult for them to move into limited numbers of specialist police posts without moving a considerable distance. Force leads told us that they are costing options to help some staff relocate to develop in specialist posts, but no formal policy has yet been developed.

Training provision

BTP provides its staff with evidence-based training that meets approved standards known as authorised professional practice. And opportunities for online, face-to-face, and blended learning are used to maximise efficient delivery of training.

The structure within L&D is set up to support improved outcomes with built-in quality assurance processes. But we found that training capacity is under strain. Although training managers plan schedules effectively there is no resilience for unplanned training without compromising existing schemes of work. Trainers generally make sure that lesson plans are ready to be implemented for each new intake of officers every three weeks. There was also effective dialogue between training managers and recruitment teams, which means that students with specific learning needs are considered at an early stage.

Positively, we noted that the force uses independent observers in real-time operational scenario training, and guest speakers with life experience in areas such as mental health and neurodiversity add depth to learning. We found that training is often supplemented by discussions with staff doing the job, which adds additional realism, and recruits we spoke to said this is highly valued. We spoke with staff and trainees who confirm they leave with an end-of-course report that includes next steps to support professional or personal requirements. Trainers have a good insight into the psychology and risks of assaults faced by employees, and we made positive comment earlier in this report about the standard of officer safety training in force.

To meet the unique challenges of policing the rail network the force has stopped using a national job-related fitness test to assess the fitness of existing staff. Instead, the force is working with academics to develop a bespoke test that better reflects the requirements of BTP. This means that staff who might not be able to sustain a foot chase over a set distance could still make a useful operational contribution to policing through foot patrol and body recovery. Until this is rolled out the force uses operational safety training as an alternative means of assessing fitness for duty. The force reports that, in just 3 months, 32 staff have returned to frontline duties with a further 24 due to undergo this training. This risk-assessed approach means that the force is better able to manage and use staff to meet demand.

The initial training commitment in London is being revamped into modules to reduce the 18-week requirement for new officer recruits to travel. However, attempts to provide training in some regional centres have not worked. This is largely due to there being quicker transport links to London. Nevertheless, we found that force leads remain committed to explore all potential opportunities. During interviews we were told that the force doesn’t have sufficient tutors to meet demand. We also found that there is disparity because some detective tutors are paid a financial incentive whereas uniform tutors are not. When asked it was explained that all tutors have the opportunity to gain a teaching qualification as recompense. While there is merit in this, the force should consider a sustainable approach that promotes equality.

The policing education qualification framework (PEQF) is the professional training framework used for police officers and staff in England and Wales. It results in a recognised and accredited qualification for defined roles that need specific skills and knowledge. At the time of our inspection, the force had received approval to progress to tender for a tailored version of PEQF. If progressed, this will help the force to continue to meet its requirement to provide specialist training to police the rail network. A proportion of the costs for PEQF has been earmarked through the force commitment to the Apprenticeship Levy. When detailed market responses have been received the updated costs will be put before British Transport Police Authority (BTPA) for a decision and financial approval.

For BTP officers in Scotland, the force mirrors the Police Scotland curriculum, and its officers are trained at the Police Scotland College at Tulliallan. The force also makes use of the money it receives for taking part in the national apprenticeship scheme. As well as staff feeling valued, the force also benefits from this because many people choose to study research subjects related to their role and share the results with the force.

Personnel development

One of the force’s People Strategy ambitions is that staff are well led. A new personal development review (PDR) process was introduced during 2021/22 which simplifies the requirements for those who aren’t seeking promotion or wider development. Most staff we spoke with said they had an up-to-date PDR and are satisfied with the process. The force told us that completion for the year ending 31 March 2022 was 88 percent. However, following a random sample of PDRs, BTP leaders aren’t satisfied with the quality of honest conversations that should be established through coaching techniques. To address this, and improve the confidence staff have in senior leaders, the force has recently introduced its leadership skills programme. We spoke with many middle and senior managers who attended the first iteration of the programme. They told us it was informative and brought the force strategy alive. Some said how they as advocates will be better able to use coaching, talent management and positive action to develop and retain staff.

During our inspection, we were pleased to note some positive views from staff who said that decisions around promotion and development in BTP are more transparent than in previous years. However, we found that despite the firm offer of talent management programmes in force, there isn’t a clear link to succession planning in critical or more senior posts. In its People Strategy the force acknowledges that it needs to do more and has begun this through analysis of roles that are critical by operational need rather than rank.

Vetting and counter-corruption

We now inspect how forces deal with vetting and counter-corruption differently. This is so we can be more effective and efficient in how we inspect this high-risk area of police business.

Corruption in forces is tackled by specialist units, designed to proactively target corruption threats. Police corruption is corrosive and poses a significant risk to public trust and confidence. There is a national expectation of standards and how they should use specialist resources and assets to target and arrest those that pose the highest threat.

Through our new inspections, we seek to understand how well forces apply these standards. As a result, we now inspect forces and report on national risks and performance in this area. We now grade and report on forces’ performance separately.

British Transport Police is inadequate at dealing with vetting, IT monitoring and counter corruption.

Read the report for British Transport Police: A report into the effectiveness of vetting and counter-corruption arrangements in British Transport Police

Strategic planning, organisational and value for money

BTP is adequate at operating efficiently. In this section we set out our most noteworthy findings for this question.

Area for improvement

By July 2023, the force should develop a clear strategy to demonstrate how it will establish and measure the benefits it will gain from its change programmes

British Transport Police hasn’t adequately shown that it has clear, documented plans for establishing and evaluating organisational benefits through its change programmes.

Main findings

The force has an effective strategic planning and performance framework, ensuring that it tackles what is important locally and nationally

Unlike Home Office police forces, BTP is a non-departmental public body, sponsored through the Department for Transport to provide an efficient and effective policing service to the railways. However, in addition to the security of the rail network, BTP also supports the Strategic Policing Requirement. This means that within its strategic planning processes it considers the need to mobilise resources in response to national threats.

Strategy and performance

BTP has a robust and comprehensive approach to strategic planning and performance management. This is underpinned by a co-ordinated approach to data collection and strong governance arrangements between the force and its executive body BTPA.

The force strategy considers the views of the rail industry, its established and transient communities as well as victims, their advocates and independent advisors. The strategy also includes a focus on the security needed to deliver the Great British Railways: Williams-Shapps plan for rail strategy as well as recommendations from the review of the emergency response in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack. It sets out a clear objective and pathway for BTP and highlights areas for improvement where previous investment hasn’t kept pace with demand. This includes areas such as digital connectivity, estates, and well-being provision. Work is happening to audit how well the force is performing against agreed standards. This includes establishing what risk and transformation opportunities exist to modernise the force, its assets and meet future demand more efficiently and effectively.

The force uses MoRiLE (management of risk in law enforcement) to risk score its strategic and operational work. Audit leads gather information from a range of sources. These include crime and incident statistics, industry records on rail disruption and passenger footfall as well as safeguarding and mental health demand from partner organisations. This is developed into the force strategic threat assessment. Improvements have been made to ensure better consistency in the use of partner data. For example, the use of ticketing and penalty fare data, provided by train operating companies has led to a better understanding of vulnerability risks in relation to travelling young people.

The force uses established processes to monitor the performance of its strategy and priorities through force and local performance boards. Audit-based measures include:

  • work to establish and track progress in each of the six strategic objectives;
  • briefings to improve departmental understanding and accountability; and
  • the use of inspection data to measure the likelihood of force priorities being met.

The force is making sure it has the right capability and capacity to manage current and future demand well

BTP publishes predictions about its current and future demand through its annual force management statement process. It makes good use of predictive analysis to anticipate longer-term changes in crime types and trends in preventative and enforcement activity. It has an in-depth understanding of less obvious demand, including hidden crimes such as child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. And it has recently developed its cyber strategy to set out how the force will respond to threats in the UK National Cyber Strategy 2022.

Strategic and operational governance meetings are used to manage demand and performance. This includes mobilising resources for major events such as the funeral of Her late Majesty the Queen, adjusting its operational model to tackle gender-based crime and responding to critical demand that threatens the security of the rail network. Locally, managers use IT dashboards to manage demand using a suite of performance indicators and a daily management meeting is used to review performance and flex resources where required.

To help manage demand more efficiently BTP tries to eliminate wasteful practice. For example, strategically the force is growing its own in-house occupational health provision rather than contracting more expensive services. Senior leads are also negotiating with sporting authorities to find better ways to use dedicated volunteers in policing football fixtures.

To assess how well the current operating model meets demand now and over the next five years, the force is carrying out a capability and capacity review. The aim is to establish a deep understanding of the workforce skills, assets, and where these are distributed. This will allow senior leads to capitalise on opportunities to rebalance resources to better meet demand. The recommendations from the review are subject to challenge panels led by the deputy chief constable. In these panels various scenarios stress test the recommendations against business and operational pressures such as recruitment and increases in demand types such as gender-based violence and mental health demand.

The force also uses its HR processes such as deployment, training, and skills audits to match resources with demand. Using up-to-date census data it has begun to match the diversity of its staff to community profiles.

Recruiting against the Police Uplift Programme and higher than expected wage increases remains a challenge for the force. However, business cases for growth are scrutinised by chief officers for relevance against current and future demand, value for money and sustainability. During our inspection we saw that resources follow force priorities, for example VAWG patrols, well-being investment and a programme to fix the fundamentals of force IT. This is necessary to stabilise platforms and build future efficiencies through CCTV and drone technology.

Early evaluation of the integrated police and security pilot shows that joint working with partners has already reduced demand. Examples shown to us include preventing county lines drug criminality, preventing assaults on rail staff and interrupting a potential knife attack by a person who was motivated by extremist views.

The force makes the best use of its finances, and its plans are both ambitious and sustainable


Uniquely, BTP is funded almost entirely by the rail transport industry through police service agreements with the BTPA. The police authority uses a charging model informed by policing data, to determine each operator’s contributions, based on covering the full annual costs of policing (including those of the BTPA) and reflecting each operator’s police service agreement.

Financial governance

BTPA applies financial scrutiny through its audit, risk, and assurance committee. Internal force governance is managed through the force executive board and portfolio change and investment board which considers all change activity, investment, rebalancing budgets when costs change, business cases, financial performance, and oversight of funding. For example, if investment or rebalancing projects are subject to variation, the portfolio change and investment board ensures there are sufficient controls to manage cash reserves and ensure minimum cash holdings aren’t breached.

During interviews force leads explained that the force 2018–2021 efficiency strategy realised £17.5m in efficiency savings from mostly back and middle office functions. This was reinvested in other priorities including improving the force response to vulnerability. However, the efficiency strategy wasn’t far-reaching and didn’t examine frontline policing.

During 2021, the BTPA made four key strategic appointments including the current chief constable. This provided a suitable opportunity to review the force strategy. The updated strategy, supported by FOTM transformation programme, now identifies force-wide efficiency savings that aim to future-proof service provision by rebalancing existing investment. The strategy uses priority-based budgeting principles to realise financial efficiencies that can be sustainably reinvested where they will have the most impact. This means that the force has built efficiencies into its plans which include exploiting digital, data and technology to modernise the force and reduce threats and disruption to the rail network. Any resulting savings will be reinvested in areas where the force can have the greatest impact.

Use of finances and reserves

To finance some of the activity required in the early years of FOTM, BTPA confirmed some of its cash reserves would be used until efficiency savings could be realised over the life of the project. Prudently, the BTPA decided not to include projections in the March 2022 medium-term financial plan (MTFP) because the details of costs and benefits weren’t sufficiently clear. However, at the time of our inspection in October 2022, the force had evidenced the detail needed to include FOTM financial efficiencies into the planned budget for 2022/23.

Within the MTFP we found revenue plans over the 5 years to 2027 were balanced, meaning that income met planned expenditure over the period. This was based on an expected average inflation rate of 3 percent, with a similar increase in expenditure over the life of the plan. The capital element of the MTFP involved expenditure of some £60m for estate, fleet, and IT investments. The force IT strategy is built around a three-year programme of work called ‘Fixing the Fundamentals’, which is described as an essential, minimum investment to improve core IT functions. However, the force doesn’t have a comprehensive IT strategy aimed at meeting its long-term digital, data and technology ambitions.

The force and the BTPA have approved a sustainable plan for maintaining adequate revenue reserves through which it will support and invest in priority demand areas. On 31 March 2022, the Authority had £53m of cash reserves; £15.7m of which is required to maintain working capital. Finance leads have assessed that up to £25.8m cash reserves can be earmarked for investment including estates and start-up costs to fund FOTM. The force reports monthly on cash reserves to force executive board and to the authority through frequent governance meetings. The audit committee reviewed a plan for cash reserves management in November 2021 and in June 2022. However, BTPA should consider updating its reserves policy so that plans for use of distributable reserves are clearly documented. This should include the projected reserve balances over the life of the MTFP.

Financial forecasting and future investment in BTP includes plans for how the force might reduce its environmental impact through a net zero carbon programme. However, projected annual fuel savings of £900,000 from fleet electrification aren’t included in the MTFP because the programme requires external funding that hasn’t yet been identified. Other priorities that lack identified funding include extending drone and CCTV provision across the network.

The force actively seeks opportunities to improve services through working with others and makes the most of these benefits in line with its contracted and statutory obligations

In interviews we were told of good examples of collaboration on procurement activities, such as uniform procurement, facility repairs, fleet electrification and forensics services. Some BTP partnerships also offer potential income generation opportunities through outsourcing the force driving school and investments in vetting capability. The force also sought help from the IT lead from another force to review the status of their IT. This led to an improvement strategy for the force IT called ‘Fixing the Fundamentals’.

Operationally we have seen evidence of the benefits of collaboration in reducing disruption and vulnerability, particularly, suicide and mental health crisis as described earlier in this report. Senior leads said that the force capability review would consider wider roll out of such initiatives as it develops. The force has also carried out benchmarking against Home Office forces to inform its pay review. We found that the collaboration with the rail industry and Department for Transport has also professionalised understanding in safeguarding and economic forecasting.

Nevertheless, we think that a formal collaboration strategy may prove useful to help the force focus on prioritised collaborations that deliver clear benefits, rather than ones that feel intuitive.

The force can show that it continues to achieve efficiency savings and improve productivity but it needs to demonstrate how it achieves financial benefits

The force strategy demonstrates a clear understanding of the current and future financial challenges facing the industry and the need to demonstrate the best value for money in the services it provides. Supplies and services in BTP are monitored for cost and opportunity. We saw this through training and technology procurement that emphasises the additional capability and financial benefits sought. The force also monitors and takes corrective action where contracted services such as occupational health fall short.

Improvements in the use of force IT provide greater capability to tackle crime. This includes enhanced digital streaming of BWV direct into control rooms and drone surveillance capability to quickly assess when disrupted railway lines can be safely handed back to Network Rail – an important improvement due to the huge costs of delays on the rail network. Various force strategies also set out resilient operational processes that exploit the benefits of more effective ways of working. For example, the force estates strategy predicts a 30 percent net reduction in occupied floor space as it makes more efficient use of rented estate. And the force told us that 51 percent of its police staff are now working a formal hybrid work pattern and 7 percent use remote technology to permanently work from home. Improvements in mobile IT functions mean that officers can remotely submit crime, intelligence and stop and search reports as well as access well-being information.

The force works well with national police technology programmes to further increase its efficiency and effectiveness. These include the Single Online Home platform which is a national platform that allows the public to contact the force and access services more consistently. Other efforts to improve value for money include plans to move to a desk-based investigation unit which will help the force screen out low-level crimes that have few or any active lines of enquiry. This will create opportunities to divert more staff into investigating high-risk and harm incidents without the need to increase overall headcount.

We also saw promising potential in the benefits brought by the recent appointment of a force economist who had assessed financial savings through analysis of current and potential investment. For example, tracking the value for money in use of drone technology to reduce cable thefts had the potential to realise £4.77 for every £1 spent. Similarly, analysis of financial benefits in the use of covert policing techniques realised a financial benefit of £4.15 for every £1 spent.

These findings demonstrate that the force is ambitious and invests in technology solutions to modernise policing and deliver efficient services to the rail industry. However, we found that the force does not yet have a clear and documented approach to gather or realise organisational benefits. Past investments in areas such as mobile working and BWV hadn’t been gathered corporately. It is important for the force to clarify how it intends to obtain and treat the savings it identifies in its capability review and other change programmes.

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Inspection into British Transport Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy