The police authority overseeing the British Transport Police has been urged to boost its transparency and public accountability after admitting to having no plan for engaging with the public.
BTP is responsible for policing the national rail network and, in London, the Tube, DLR and London Overground, a service for which its paid millions per year by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Unlike local police forces operating in England which answer to an elected police and crime commissioner and, in the capital, a directly elected Mayor, the force answers to an appointed police authority which has no democratic mandate.
The authority is meant to represent the train operators and taxpayers who fund the BTP as well as passengers, however a FOI response from the body suggests it’s falling short in the transparency stakes.
Although the Authority holds public meetings it claims not to know how many members of the public attend, despite requiring that potential attendees first register their interest. This demand has been justified on the grounds that meetings are held in what’s described as “a secure building” in central London.
Although the force operates across the country, the British Transport Police Authority’s website makes no mention of providing a webcast to allow those outside the capital to watch proceedings and staff have failed to answer a number of emails asking whether such a service is offered.
Despite being part-funded by train operators who run thousands of poster sites across the rail network, the Authority’s response says meetings are only advertised on its website which receives an average of “160 visitors per day”.
In the FOI response BTPA also admits to having no strategy in place to boost public engagement and attendance at its meetings.
In London this contrasts poorly with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the London Assembly who jointly hold the Met to account and use a mixture of websites, newsletters and social media to advertise Q&A sessions with Commissioner Cressida Dick and her top team.
In addition, all MOPAC and Assembly meetings are webcast live and available to watch at a later date.
London Assembly Member Len Duvall, a member of the Assembly’s police and crime committee and a past chair of the capital’s former police authority, said the BTPA’s approach to meetings “is not good enough”.
He added: “Given the money they receive from London taxpayers there should be more openness around their work and how their resources are applied.
“They play a significant role in keeping Londoners safe but we need more transparency from them.”
Update – 11th July: Transport for London has confirmed that the British Transport Police has access to advertising space on the Tube network, meaning it has the ability to publicise the authority’s meetings to London passengers.