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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Force calms police radio 'safety' fears
Police officer speaks into radio
Tetra will replace existing radio systems by 2005
Police have defended the use of a new digital radio system which is at the centre of health concerns.

Since North Yorkshire Police introduced the hi-tech Airwave system in January, some officers have reported suffering headaches, nausea, migraines, disturbed sleep patterns and skin rashes.

North Yorkshire's deputy chief constable Peter Walker defended the system, also known as Tetra, saying it was better than the previous equipment in use.


Allowing officers to continue using the old radio system poses more of a risk to their health than any which may be associated with Tetra

Peter Walker, North Yorkshire deputy chief constable
Government officials and scientists are visiting police forces across the country to address their concerns and reassure them Tetra is safe.

Officers will be told the benefits of the new system outweigh any health risks, but that they should wear the sets in a holster with a microphone and earpiece, just in case.

Mr Walker confirmed that 20 of the 1,400 officers using Tetra had complained of health problems, but none had taken sick leave.

He said: "There is no scientific evidence to confirm that the radios pose a health risk but unfortunately there is no conclusive proof that they are completely safe.

Experts' reassurances

"However, before Tetra the coverage provided by our radio system was at best patchy and quality of the transmission was dreadful.

"Naturally, we take any threat to the health of our officers seriously and we have a legal responsibility to ensure that none of the equipment issued to them compromises safety.

"But we have received reassurances from the scientists who developed Tetra that as far as we know the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of the scheme.

"As far as we are concerned, allowing officers to continue using the old radio system poses more of a risk to their health than any which may be associated with Tetra.

"Under the old system lack of coverage and poor transmission could mean an officer was isolated and his safety compromised through lack of contact with the rest of the force."

Tetra, which cost 2.9bn to develop, had already been hit by delays and will not be ready in time for the Commonwealth Games, as planned.

To date five police forces have begun using Airwave and the first meeting about the health concerns associated with it will be held in Lancashire.

Pregnant officers

The BBC has learned that there have been 173 complaints from officers in the county about symptoms they have experienced.

As a precaution pregnant officers in the region have been told they do not have to use the system.

Senior managers of the Airwave/Tetra project are convinced the new radios are safe and will reinforce that message at meetings with police.

They will be backed by a leading scientist - Professor Colin Blakemore - who is a member of the National Radiological Protection Board.

In April it emerged the radio system was at least six months behind schedule in many parts of the country.

The delay was caused because fewer radio transmitters had been erected than planned.

Technical problems caused Greater Manchester Police to abandon Tetra, when officers lost touch with their control room.

And although it was also supposed to be used by all fire and ambulance services some regions are looking at alternatives.

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