The Thin Blue (Rail) Line

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You might travel by train every day and not even realise that the rail network has its own, dedicated police service. British transport police is, in fact, one of the oldest forces in the country and has more than 2,500 officers and 1,500 staff working across England, Scotland and Wales.

With recruitment now open for a whole range of roles, we caught up with three LGBT employees to find out more about the work they do to keep the travelling public safe.

Kat Billingham

Age: 24

Role: Police Constable

Location: Reading

How long have you been with the British Transport Police (BTP)?

I’m fresh out of the box! I joined BTP just over a year ago and am still a student officer, learning on the job. My role involves responding to incidents and patrolling stations. I’ve actually just completed my police driving course which allows me to drive with blue lights and sirens.


What made you want to become a police officer?

Putting bad people behind bars. It sounds cheesy but it’s true.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve had to deal with?

I’d only been in the job eight weeks, when we were called to a man lying on the train tracks. The adrenalin kicked in and I managed to pull him off the line and get him to safety. It was only later, when I was talking to my mum on the phone, that I got a bit emotional.

What impact has your new job had on your home life?

A 9-to-5 job has never appealed to me. One of the benefits of shift work is I get days off in the week, so I go to gym and supermarket when they’re empty. I commute from Bath, which takes about an hour, but I get free rail travel to and from work, which saves me quite a bit.

Have you felt your sexuality has ever been a problem?

I came out when I was 12 and experienced bullying at school, so I’ve always been aware of LGBT issues. Since joining BTP, I’ve been totally open with everyone and felt really welcomed. There are actually six of us at my station who identify as LGBT, and I think that’s great. It’s so important that any police service reflects the diversity of wider society.

Do you feel there’s enough support available?

I’ve actually recently put myself forward as divisional representative for the staff LGBT network, so I will soon be supporting colleagues with any issues they’re having.

Chris Casey

Age: 30

Role: Police Inspector

Location: Birmingham

Have you always wanted to be a police officer?

Yes. But I was in no rush to sign-up when I was 18. I wanted to develop so went to Uni to study Criminal Justice & Policing and volunteered around my studies as a Special Constable with West Midlands Police. This just further reaffirmed my desire to do it full-time.


So what made you join BTP?

Like many people, I’d never actually heard of BTP. I always assumed that local police forces covered the railways too. But one of my Uni lecturers was a former BTP officer and I began to be really interested in the specialist work the force does. I applied and less than a year later was passing out of training school!

What exactly do Police Inspectors do?

 Put simply, it’s the third rank up – above constable and sergeant. Currently I’m away from the frontline on a year-long secondment to one of the train operating companies, working to improve how we work together to reduce crime.

What’s the best thing about the job?

I’ve really enjoyed some of the community work. In 2013, we worked with local schoolchildren to stage a drama production highlighting the dangers of the railway. We used a real train on disused sidings and had proper special effects. More than 800 kids came along to watch and everyone had such a good time and I think it really got the safety message across – much more than a boring Powerpoint presentation!

Has your sexuality ever been a barrier?

No. I have never experienced any form of discrimination or bullying and if I did, I’d be confident to stand-up to it.

Caroline Sparks

Age: 36

Role: IT Service Support Manager

Location: Force Headquarters, London

What does your job involve?

I make sure IT is running smoothly so officers have all the tools and technology they need to fight crime on the rail network. My team focuses on desktop computers, with others looking after radios and mobile devices.


What made you want to work for BTP?

I’m from a proper police family – my dad was a detective and my step-mum was a PC. A friend of mine already worked for BTP and recommended I apply. I’ve never looked back.

What’s the best thing about your job?

There’s such a sense of purpose and team-work here. We are all working to the same goals to protect the public and reduce crime. It’s hard sometimes, but I’m one of those people who work best under pressure.

Do you think your sexuality has ever been a barrier at BTP?

Not at all, BTP has an incredibly diverse workforce. I actually met my partner here and we’re getting married in the summer. So many of the guests are close mutual friends from work – the assistant chief constable is even our best man!

FRAZER and TINA are the Chair and Vice-Chair of LINK, British Transport Police’s LGBT group.

How long has LINK been established and what does it do?

FRAZER: LINK was founded in 2005 by a small group of police officers and staff. Since its small beginnings the network has grown to represent roughly 10% of our organisation. The network is open to all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and we have a number of heterosexual allies as members.

LINK strives to engage, support and develop LGBT people within British Transport Police, ensure its work is communicated and that positive LGBT role models exist through all levels of the organisation.

How important is diversity to British Transport Police?

FRAZER: Being a national force, British Transport Police truly has a diverse workforce. British Transport Police understands and values the unique perspectives and cultural differences a diverse workforce offers our organisation.

TINA: LINK provides a platform for best practice which breeds confidence within the LGBT communities. We reach out with confidence to those communities, serve with honesty,  integrity and provide an exceptional level of care to victims of hate crime.

Are there any LINK achievements of which you’re particularly proud?

FRAZER: LINK has achieved much in its first 10 years having reached 25th in the 2012 Stonewall Index, successfully achieved the LGBT Youth Scotland Charter Mark for a number of key policing posts and raised thousands of pounds for LGBT charities.

TINA: It is inspiring to have a mix of men and women in the executive committee bringing balance and a varied range of skill sets to the table.

Apart from fighting for LGBT rights and representation, does LINK organise social events or attend Prides?

FRAZER: It’s not all stuffy strategic planning meetings or laborious paperwork! All of those involved with the LINK executive team do so in a voluntary capacity and do so because it is often fun and provides an opportunity to make new friends. LINK aims to organise at least four social events each year in different cities through the UK.

What opportunities are available for LGBT people with British Transport Police?

FRAZER: Sexual orientation or gender identity is not a barrier for anyone within British Transport Police and opportunities for career development or promotion are transparent, fair and open to all.

Describe a typical day in the British Transport Police.

FRAZER: I am currently a response policing Sergeant based in Edinburgh. I manage a team of officers which patrols the rail network locally to ensure our beat is safe, secure and crime free. Our role is to ensure the railway is free from disruption and that passengers arrive safely and on time. Much of what we do involves interacting with the travelling public, providing an approachable friendly service and ensuring they leave knowing we did all we could to assist them.

TINA: I am currently a PC at the Stratford Hub in London and patrol several underground and national rail  lines, and provide help and support to the general travelling public.

I am currently training in the use of Taser which highlights the opportunity for women to be trained in a traditionally male dominated arena, again showing the respect for diversity within BTP. I am a Youth Engagement Officer with Transport for London and attend several junior citizenship sessions and school visits to educate children and youth about safety on the railways.

On a personal note, what is the most satisfying part of working for British Transport Police?

FRAZER: For me it’s two things. Firstly, the people I work with; I feel very much part of a team or policing family and that is something special indeed. I also love the variety of challenging activities we as a force are involved in. No two days are ever the same and there is always something to experience and learn from.

TINA: I have to agree with Frazer I love being part of a good team of people in all the varied roles and responsibilities I undertake in BTP.

I find being able to be myself and be open about my sexual orientation and being given the same opportunities to develop as anyone else, is particularly rewarding..