British Transport Police Chief Constable Paul Crowther (below) says he wants the organisation to remain an integral part of the railway and not be seen simply as a supplier or some kind of private security outfit for TOCs.
And why wouldn’t it? BTP has existed in one form or another since the birth of the railways, its creation driven in part by the unusual death of William Huskisson at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway in 1830. Huskisson was struck and killed by the Rocket after getting off the train halfway to speak to the Duke of Wellington while the engine took on water.
Although crime figures are continuing to fall – for the 11th consecutive year this year – there are always areas for improvement.
Chief Constable Crowther said that upon taking the role in 2014, there were two areas he had hoped to focus on; prevention and the management of offenders.
‘I had a clear view that restructure was only a tiny part of the story and what we needed to do was completely transform the way that we operated, build on some great success that we had,’ said Crowther.
‘The end of our performance year at the beginning of April sees the 11th consecutive year of crime reductions.’
He added, ‘We’ve set ourselves some very ambitious further crime reduction targets as well as reducing disruption and increasing passenger confidence.’
Crowther joined the Metropolitan Police when he was 19. Soon after, he joined BTP as a uniformed constable on the London Underground. From there, he was promoted to Detective and then again to Superintendent before eventually taking up the role of Deputy Chief Constable.
He also spent a less enjoyable, but ultimately rewarding, period as head of training doing ‘indoors stuff’. ‘I’ve always been an operational guy who likes to be in the thick of it,’ says Crowther. In March 2014, Crowther was named as Andy Trotter’s successor, taking over the Chief Constable role.
As Deputy Chief Inspector, he oversaw the consolidation of the force’s eight geographical areas into just three divisions. During his career, Crowther has also played a part in the investigations at Hatfield, Potters Bar and managed the response to the 7/7 terrorist attacks.
Chief Constable Crowther will be giving a talk entitled ‘How do you lead and motivate a successful team’ at the Rail Safety Summit on April 30. In 2013, He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s
New Year Honours for his 30+ years of service to the police force.
‘I think 7/7 is probably just about the most extreme example of crisis management,’ says Crowther.
‘In many of the incidents I’ve dealt with, the thing that really comes to the fore is how one makes critical decisions which are appropriate, which don’t under react but don’t overreact. So in the case of terrorism, if we’re not careful, we actually do the job of the terrorist for them by overreacting to an incident.’
BTP has a very different set of priorities to other forces in the UK. In particular, it has to be acutely aware of how its actions impact on the running of the railway.
Says Crowther, ‘If we shut the railway down every time someone made a bomb threat or left an unattended item, the system wouldn’t run very often.’
In the past, there have been reviews considering the merits of letting the Metropolitan Police take over BTP’s position in the capital. The conclusion was that BTP played too important a role. North of the border, Police Scotland is preparing to take over responsibility for policing Scotland’s expanding rail network. Not quite Scottish independence but a significant moment in BTP’s story.
‘We stood back and said where do we fit into this rapidly expanding rail industry,’ said Crowther.
‘Sometimes, I think that with some of the rail operators, we may have ended up in a sort of relationship where we were viewed as a provider, a supplier/ provider type relationship, and actually I wanted us to be seen very clearly as a strategic partner, an integral part of the railway family.’
He added, ‘I firmly believe in the network-wide provision of policing and security, it’s a model that works, it’s a model that’s been reviewed probably about nine times by different bodies as this subject comes up from time to time and every single one of those reviews has concluded that it’s best delivered by a dedicated transport police. That is firmly my professional view.’