BNP List issue goes on – even through dismissal of Merseyside PC

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009 - career management, Disciplinary Procedure, Employer, Employment, Legal, professionalism, sunday thoughts, tutorial

Communication is Employment

The news of the dismissal of PC Steve Bettley from Merseyside Police, after his name was found on the BNP’s membership list, has escalated the issue of reaction to this incident.

When the list of BNP “members” was released in November 2008, PC Bettley who was at one time the driver for Merseyside Chief chief constable Bernard Hogan Howe, was suspended from duty. Following an investigation and resultant disciplinary inquiry, Bettley was dismissed after it was concluded he had “knowingly been a member of the BNP.” A ban on serving police officers joining or promoting the BNP was introduced by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in 2004.

A Merseyside Police spokeswoman said: “A police misconduct panel has dismissed Constable Steve Bettley after concluding he had knowingly been a member of the British National Party from March 2007 and up to March 2008.” Having consulted with the Black Police Association and the forces Independent Advisory Group, Deputy Chief Constable Bernard Lawson added: “We have an overriding legal duty to promote race equality and retain public confidence.”

Bettley intends to appeal the decision, and Ian Leyland, secretary of the Merseyside Police Federation, said Mr Bettley accepted his name was on the BNP list enrolled in the party by a family member without his knowledge, but he denied being a member of the party and he planned to appeal against the dismissal: “Constable Bettley would like to place on record that he condemns racism and does not support the views of the British National Party.”

The questions from an HR view point are three fold:

  1. Was Bettley enrolled in the BNP with his knowledge? Lets accept at present perhaps he didn’t know until his membership pack or acknolwedgement arrived on his doorstep. So the follow on question is: When did Bettley know he was “a member” of the BNP?
  2. What did he do to end his membership?
  3. Knowing the potential employment consequences, how did he advise his employers of the incident?

In assessing the incident, I think the construction of a timeline is useful. It seems Bettley accepts that he was enrolled as a member of the BNP from March 2007 – so it seems logical that he would have known of the membership soon afterwards. Even if he didn’t know then, he would have known when his membership renewal request came through the post – so March 2008 at latest. But it seems that even that did not prompt a discussion with the Police Federation, or with his employers – which was prompted after the release of the BNP membership list in November 2008. Effectively the timeline shows that in 18months, Bettley did nothing to seek advice from the Police Federation or seek discussion with his employer.

Often in disciplinary issues, it is the how of an incident is handled as well as the when, as much as the fact which is key in the outcome. The fact PC Bettley at minimum didn’t liaise or communicate to his employers for at least six months at minimum leads me to conclude presently with Vinny Tomlinson, chairman of the Merseyside Black Police Association, who said that said he was “satisfied that Pc Stephen Bettley was either a member or supportive of the aims and objectives of the BNP, and therefore commend the inevitable decision made by Merseyside Police to dismiss him from service.”

Any neutral would come to the same conclusion, give the time line. If you think you have a problem at work, seek early advice and discussion.

Good Luck!

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