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Comments from the police


Related pages: TETRA and the police; Precaution for police users

I am a serving officer using Sepura Airwave. In January 07 I got an infection in my mouth which then became an ulcer. The ulcer would not clear and a biopsy showed oral cancer. I have undergone an operation and had it removed. The site is adjacent to where the aerial of the radio sits when I am wearing it. None of my consultants or doctors has discounted Airwave as a possible cause of my cancer.

PM, Lancs

I have been using police TETRA radio system for several years. I have suffered burning hot ears (the ear that I have my radio earpiece in) and hotness to that side of my face. I have also suffered headaches and dizziness and fatigue, usually after a long shift using my radio. I am very concerned, but I have to pay the bills. I fear we are heading to an epidemic of health problem related to TETRA.

Dominic, Bristol

I am a Health & Safety rep. for my Police Force and we are apparently seeing a significant rise in the number of our officers suffering from various forms of cancer. I am obviously concerned about this and would like to know what current information you may have on this subject (maybe contact from other officers?)

H&S rep., Sussex

The following is a very important point for users of digital mobile communications in the course of their jobs. It is made worse through the use of multiple decvices such as PDAs connecting to the commercial networks (introduced because of the abject failure of Airwave to deliver data by itself).

I guess we all know (or should know) that driving a car while using a mobile phone is a hazardous occupation in which your chances of having an accident is increased by a factor of about four. Perhaps fewer people know that using a hands-free kit makes no difference; you are still four times more likely to have an accident (according the the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) and it is certainly more dangerous than talking to a passenger. See also www.fiafoundation.com and associated links.

This makes me think that it’s not just the distracting effect of using the phone, but perhaps the phone signal itself is a contributory cause. It seems likely that it will promote membrane leakage, boost the non-programmed ingress of calcium ions into neurones and so increase their chances of generating spurious action potentials (programmed calcium ingress is a normal step in the release of neurotransmitters). This would be expected to degrade the signal to noise ratio of the brain and make it less able to respond adequately to complex tasks demanding a high degree of awareness of even minor stimuli; e.g. that needed for driving a car safely. This effect would not be picked up by an ordinary EEG since it would look just like electrode or amplifier noise, but could nevertheless have serious consequences for the unsuspecting car driver.

If this is correct, we might expect a mobile phone used by a passenger to have a similar effect on the driver (analogous to passive smoking). It might therefore be wise to discourage your passengers from using their mobiles when you are driving. It might even be a good idea to make their use on public transport illegal for the same reason. Now that really would be nice...

Dr A G, London

The units we use in Norfolk are the Motorola type. The handbooks for these state, in the Safety Notes, that they should be kept a minimum of 1 inch away from the body. ‘We’ have asked why? but have never been given a reason, but going by the experience of others so far, tumors spring to mind.

Those that have died (9 so far to my knowledge) since the introduction of Tetra, developed Cancer Tumors underneath where the hand sets are worn. The 1st officers to develope tumors were Anti-terrorist officers in N.I. 5 Officers developed these, in the small of the back, side and underarm: this is where the holster or handset was hidden under their clothing. The Government stated there was NO connection to the handset and the tumors, and ignored it, as usual.

The officers in Lancaster and Leicester wore theirs in a holder/holster in the centre of their chest and developed tumors in the oesphagus. No coinsidence? ...

Norfolk has had the system for only 18-24 months and we have an officer with a brain tumor and another deaf in one ear, the ear which they wore the ear piece, on a daily basis, as part of their role.

Not wanting to concern you but ...!! ... draw your own conclusions.

I was in contact with Prof. Ross Adey who was considered one of the world’s leading experts. He had worked on ‘both sides of the fence’ as a U.S. advisor for the developement of microwave weapons, and research into the health effects of exposure to microwaves. He had worked on projects since the ’60s. He was then employed by Motorola as a researcher testing a new thing called Tetra. His findings were to inform Motorola that the technology was unsafe and should not be used ... the rest we all know about!! He told me that ‘they’ were playing Russian roulete with our health and lives, this was also supported by Prof. Cherry in N.Z., spooky enough both have now died. Conspirecy theorists ‘eat your hearts out’.

G, Norwich

Firstly, thanks to all the guys and girls who have posted their concerns thus far. At least someone’s looking after us!

I’m an officer with the Serious Organised Crime Agency although an ex police officer. The Police Federation no longer represents us and PCS (our new union) makes no mention of Tetra. Do you or your readers have any views on Covert Tetra/Airwaves? I’m concerned that my colleagues and I will be wearing these units directly against our torso or thigh for extended periods of time, (24hrs + in some cases). Also spending many hours in a vehicle during surveillance, not having periods away from the car whilst attending to jobs etc., is the risk increased? Any advice and views would be a great help.

MB, Telford

I am a serving police officer using TETRA as personal radio and in-car set. I have always suffered with migraines from age of 15 but only one a year or less. I am now getting one or two a week. Is there any evidence of a link to TETRA?

GM, Manchester

TW: We have come to the conclusion that there is clear reason why headaches and migraines are caused or worsened by use of microwave transmitters close to the body. The simple story is that electromagnetic radiation, ands especially pulsed microwave radiation, has been shown to affect the operation of certain key enzymes. One of these is responsible for the production of nitric oxide, which plays many essential roles in the body. In fact, from what we can see in the peer-reviewed science, if this disruption is indeed taking place, then all the health problems people report are attributable, at least in a major part, to this one effect.

As an example, this science web page shows the scale of association between headaches and nitric oxide, but it is still only a part of the story.

Other aspects of this are introduced on our nitric oxide links page.

From our research, this is one of the most pressing issues, since if headaches and migraines are being caused this way, the longer-term effects and consequences are much more serious.

So evidence? Yes, plenty, and we wish it were being taken seriously, rather than being left aside as "unlikely". You are far from being alone here; headaches and migraine have been a feature of living and working with TETRA since the beginning. I suggest you at least keep a simple diary record, so that any patterns of heavy use can be seen in context when eventually people start being heard. You might also introduce the asociation with your doctor if you feel that would be helpful.

Having served as a PC in South Wales and using the Tetra System, and suffering side effects of it, and being told not to bother complaining AND reading the health coments here! I feel we are all in terrible health danger and we should all speak out (even strike!) Let’s all STOP using this system; the Government were offered a cheaper and health tested system from the UK which they refused to buy.

How can we work to enforce a law abiding society, when our own lives, family lives and comments are not being listened to?

PC_, Wales

I’m becoming more and more concerned that using Airwave seems to be giving me an irritation in my throat similar to what you experience with a tickly cough. I’ve only recently started using it and unfortunately don’t feel that I have any choice. It’s very hard to explain exactly what the problem is but I'm becoming more and more concerned at having to use this on a daily basis for a minimum of 8 hours at a time. It doesn’t help that the handset is clipped to your chest with the result that the tip of the aerial is level with your cheekbone.

PC_, Strathclyde

I am a serving officer in Hastings, East Sussex, we have been using Airwave for some time now. I think that it is outrageous that we have had this system foisted on us with no definitive answer as to the saftey of the product.

It is a fact that officers have felt ill effects from the system and it is also a fact that respected independent scientists have made reservations over the safety of Airwave.

I don’t understand the complexities of the science, but firmly believe that until the system has been catergorically proven safe nobody should be using it.

When I undertook the training package, the first thing the trainer said was that he was unable to discuss safety issues in any way. This seems to be the position throughout the orginisation. Many officers are totally unaware of any issues and the wishy-washy postion of the federation is no help.

One of the worst things is that the system is not even that good, yes clarity and coverage are better, but as a tool for operational officers it is terrible, fiddly to use, over complicated, and from an officer safety standpoint, the inability to cut across other officers in an emergency will undoughtedly lead to serious injuries to officers.

So Airwave is very probably damaging my health, useless as an operational tool, but criticism or even discussion of these issues is banned. That’s the public sector for you.

PC_, Hastings

To All fellow officers, UK wide.

The National Police Federation are NOT interested in the Health Concerns of Officers, regarding AIRWAVE. Trust me I have been ‘fighting’ with them for about 2 years, it is a matter of ‘I’m alright Jack’.

I have encountered punishment postings and veiled threats from ‘Management’ for speaking out about TETRA/AIRWAVE.

Truth of the matter is, it is NOT tested, and having read the correspondance below, the red marks and headaches are reported by officers from all Forces.

Apparently the evidence is ‘not conclusive’ and we are all psychotic; it’s not the Airwave equipment but us.

As for Josh Berle, don’t even waste your breath, the word Truth is not a word he is aware of.

For Yorshire Officers, the Fed. National Airwave rep. is one of your boys, apparently he thinks it’s marvelous and the best thing for you, and Airwave has saved Yorkshire Forces so much money!!

The safety section in the Airwave handbooks states that the unit should be at least 1 inch away from the body. When asked why? ... they have never replied with an answer!!

In the past Motorola, the main ‘player’ in Airwave terminals, have employed a world leading scientist to study the health effects of microwave communication systems, his recommondations were, NOT to use the frequency, as it would cause headaches, cancer, breakdown of the immune system etc. ... sound familiar?! Because it was not what they wanted to hear they withdrew their funding and ignored the advice. This was repeated for the next set of scientists, same conclusion and same outcome. The scientist was Prof. Ross Adey, who also worked on the US Military’s microwave weapons technology.

My advice is not to wear the handsets. Some officers have stuck cooking foil to the back of the handset case and this seems to stop the reddening. Also be aware of the ‘optimum’ operating height of 1.6 mtrs, below that it does not work properly, so don’t ‘GO TO GROUND’ if you can help it, turn the handsets off in the cars, and take it off, at all possible times.

S, Norfolk

I am serving in the Staffordshire Police and use my Sepura hand held Airwave radio daily. Since the system went online at the begining of the year I have experienced far more headaches than I can ever previously remember having, one of which lasted for 2 days. I have very rarely suffered from headaches before and have joked about it being the new radio ‘frying my brain’. Having read the other comments posted on this site I fear that this may not be far from the truth.

I understand that Staffordshire Police is offering regular health checks for officers worried about such side effects. If other forces are not doing this then maybe they should start. (Though the Home Office have surely tested the system extensively to ensure that it is risk free ... haven’t they????)

MB, Staffordshire

[Tested? Sadly, no.]

Since being involved with the issue of TETRA masts I have encountered my email being suspended by BT. They said it was a technical problem — yeah right; anyone else having trouble from TPTB (THE POWERS THAT BE)? Also police officers have told me that they have been told not to speak to anyone who is against TETRA MASTS, by the Police Federation; also the police officers I have spoken to have said that they have had slurred speech since using TETRA but when going on holiday for a few weeks everthing is OK, until that is, they go back to work. The South Wales ECHO have told me that I am a one man band and they will no longer cover my stories in regard to the TETRA issue, so much for freedom of speech. Well, I suppose it’s like this in the UK. YOU'VE GOT FREEDOM OF SPEECH AS LONG AS YOU KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.

DG, Aberdare

I’m a serving police officer in the       force.

I have to admit that Airwave is I feel a vast improvement over the old system we used to have.

Our vehicles were equipped with either Marconi or Cleartone units, and our hand helds were the old Motorola HT600 models, used to weigh a tonne, and the signal was appalling.

Having said all that the main thing I find a total frustration with the Airwave system, is the fact you cannot transmit when someone else is.

That’s pants as I have pressed my emergency button over an incident and got a tightener over it.

This was in anger over not being able to communicate an urgent, though non-life threatening message.

But I must finish by saying that I hope there are no long-term side effects, I must admit after a while of wearing an ear peice my ear is red hot.

That aside, the quality of reception and versatiltiy of the product is impressive.

Anon, Derbyshire

You may be interested to learn that Airwave in Scotland failed totally on the day of the G8 demonstration at Gleneagles.

The whole system just went off the air leaving police at the demo with no communications and leading to police pulling out earpieces (presumably to avoid hiss).

The outage lasted for nearly six hours. There have been no press reports about this major embarrassment.

Forces in Lothian and Borders, Fife, Tayside and Central had been migrated onto Airwave in an accelerated programme because of the G8.

In Lothian and Borders, fallback onto the old analogue system has been required on several occasions.

In passing, I’m told that nearby use of GPRS causes interference with certain Airwave sets.

JH, Edinburgh


Email from: Josh Berle Josh (Airwave)
To: watch@tetrawatch.net
Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2005 10:45 AM
Subject: G8

Hi Andy

You may remember me as one of O2 Airwave’s local pr people. I thought I’d make contact just in respect of your latest headline about G8, which I see has come from a correspondent in Edinburgh. As you rightly note, the Airwave service was used extensively during G8, but we were not aware of the outage to which your correspondent refers. Can you (or s/he) elaborate at all?

Best regards,



I sought the confirmation we all need and received this reply:

‘All I can tell you is that my friend was at Gleneagles on the Wednesday of the G8.

He reports that all of the displays on the Airwave sets went blank (the sets are worn with the displays facing outwards) and that police officers seemed confused. A number of them removed earpieces.

Later in the day, he was in Stirling and he saw a number of similarly blank displays.

I have no reason to disbelieve him.’


I think we need to confirm the reason for blank displays from the police themselves.

I am a police officer within the UK and having read the comments from my fellow colleagues around the UK, it is obvious that I’m not alone in my health fears regarding using the Tetra radios. My force is the last one to have Tetra, as it was only introduced this year – however, my colleagues are already suffering from headaches etc. I do not understand why we should keep quiet about this? Why should we not make it public how these radios are affecting the people who use them? I have decided I will not use them, I am not prepared to risk my health for this job. As we all know, its a lawful order – that means I will be facing disciplinary action and ultimately I may lose my job. I welcome all comments and strongly believe we should join together, unified in our fear/concern over the system – I will post another comment, with more details soon.


I am a Police officer of 22 years with Derbyshire Constabulary. We were one of the first forces to be supplied with the new TETRA Airwave communications system. Shortly after the system was implimented (everything changed to Tetra at once, all analogue communications from UHF/VHF), myself and a CONSIDERABLE number of colleagues, suffered, and continue to suffer, adverse affects, namely headaches, depression, and ringing (pulsing) in the ear.

All began a few weeks after Tetra was implemented. Unfortunately, complaints about our new radio system are not encouraged or advised, as for people higher up in the force, radio security and privacy is the main priority. Confirmation that these SYMPTOMS CAME FROM TETRA AIRWAVE USE was to come from a neighbouring constabulary, (Staffordshire Police). Staffordshire were one of the last forces to make the switch to Tetra(partly due to their complicated and vast trunking system used known as Starnet), and with speaking to officers from staffs police, IDENTICAL SYMPTOMS have been suffered by numerous officers (and are continuing), which began weeks after using the new TETRA AIRWAVE SYSTEM.

Unfortunately, the health risks are no stranger to the average bobby on the street, we are just not encouraged to talk about it. On a closing note, you may be interested to look at Police Officer Attendance records, and sicknesses since Tetra was implemented in various constabularies.

Detective Constable, Derbyshire Constabulary

I have been a user of Airwave in South Yorkshire for a while. I wear my radio on my protective vest to the left of my chest. I have noticed when I have got undressed from work I have a red mark on the left side of my chest where my radio is. This concerns me.

SK, Barnsley

I am a serving police Officer in the South Yorkshire Service. We have had TETRA for nearly a year now, and we have just become aware of the Trower report. The whole thing has consequently snowballed and along with my inspectors we are gathering as much evidence in order to put a case to the Federation initially.

If nothing comes from that then more radical action will have to be taken on a large scale, as this situation is totally unacceptable by all the serving officers I have had contact with. Where are our human rights now??

KW, South Yorkshire

As an officer I am concerned over the health implications regarding AIRWAVE. I have been informed that if any officer refuses to use the tetra/airwave hand sets they will be give a 6 week ‘cooling off’ period, they will then be asked again as a direct and lawful order to use the equipment, if the answer is No, then disciplinary action will take place and the officer will be asked to resign.

What would happen if you refused to resign, is not known?

Many of the officers in Norfolk are unaware of the concerns and health risk, this is due to management bulling, threats and punishment postings, to deter any ‘up-rising’.

Both management and Police Federation, are stating that there is no evidence to support the ‘stopping’ of AIRWAVE on health grounds.

I consider it a cop out and it’s all to do with money politics and nothing more!

GC, Norfolk

I am a serving police Officer and have only just discovered this site! Having just read the Trower report on the TETRA radios as well as information on here, to say I am worried is an understatement.

I feel that concern is growing within my force regarding the safety of the equipment we have been told to use: note that we haven’t been consulted on the equipment.

Many Officers have expressed concern and have stated that they are considering not using the handsets, although enquiries are ongoing as to the backlash from Senior Officers and future disciplinary action against us should we do so.

I will pass your website on to my colleagues and hopefully things may move forward and theu will actually have the chance to read what is actually going on.

DM, South Yorkshire

As members of Strathclyde Police, we were aware of the risks and investigations into Tetra and its adverse health risks. We contacted our Federation regarding Airwave implementation and asked: could we refuse to use it on health and safety grounds? We were told we would have to ‘make a personal choice’. We asked again what that meant, and again the reply was ‘make a personal choice’. This can only be left to imply that any ‘down tools’ time would result in disciplinary or complete removal action from the heirarchy. More notably, it also hints that our Federation, as you can see refusing to provide any explanation or consult to existing legislation that would either help or hinder our ‘down tools’ time, has consulted with the heirarchy regarding the ‘down tools’ option. Why else would they be so swift and concise with their answer? However, to date, our hierarchy has made no comment, either official or not, regarding the highlighted dangers of the Airwave system.

Why would they? They have too much to lose. Lambs to the slaughter rings to mind. How do these people sleep at night? They sell the officers they are paid to protect so cheaply, but at least we’re expendable...

P, Strathclyde

Whilst surfing, I came across this file:

It includes the line: ‘This survey will help to identify if particular working practices or the use of specific equipment, or work related activity has any bearing on the incidence of cancer.’

(Now what specific equipment would that be then? Truncheons? Police whistles? Pointy Hats?)

I figure it must be a pilot for a new panel game. How long can you go without saying ‘Airwave’

Sorry but very valid reason for anon.

A, Lancs

Why was a Tetra system which was developed in America turned down for use by their police force, yet we are offered it at half price by British Ttelecom? Also, we are not told the location of the Tetra masts. I have a son who is a police officer who luckily up until now has no side effects, but two of his collegues are suffering with possible side effects.

MK, Manchester

... I have tried to read up on the subject of TETRA. Although it appears there is no conclusive scientific proof on its safety, one thing is clear, rank and file officers within my force are not in any way aware of facts concerning TETRA research. Those that raise the issue are fed the government line by senior officers repeating the rhetoric that there is no proof that TETRA is dangerous.

Following Neil Dring’s death, the back-covering has started with meaningless forms being circulated on which officers are to report ill-health resulting from TETRA.

Surely the whole point of the TETRA debate is how can ill-health be conclusively attributed to TETRA. For officers working shifts, and under ever-increasing stress from undermanning and performance demands, it’s impossible to blame TETRA on an individual basis.

A rumour-quashing squad has been investigating the various stories circulating the force concerning TETRA, such is the desperation within senior management to prevent an all-out revolt. I have read with interest the comments of other officers on this site who have attempted to raise the TETRA safety issue. I expect to become subject of similar attention as I have circulated Barry Trower’s reports to numerous colleagues.

I have read enough material on TETRA to make me want to refuse to use the system. I suspect my job would be in jeopardy if I did.

Anon, Leicestershire

Police officers are very concerned, but not all are aware of the concerns and dangers associated with the system.

This is due to the management ‘closing ranks’. Anybody who dares to raise issue or try to pass information on to fellow officers, are subjected to veiled threats and in some cases bans and gagging orders. An individual who has been tiredlessly trying to make members of their force aware, about the concerns has been bullied and made to sign a ‘gagging order’ to prevent any information being passed on.

One officer even found a secret computer folder on their force system which contained, e-mails between the force and P.I.T.O. and the Home Office, stating that they knew all about the officer and the problems being caused. What was the problem? The officer, as part of a working group looking at the Tetra system, was telling their colleagues about the concerns over the Tetra frequency and how the frequency was one within a band of frequencies which had been developed as a microwave weapon. This was supported by Prof. Ross Adey, who had worked in this field for the U.S. Government!

There are numerous reports of officers and the public being effected by the Tetra system, but those concerned are too scared to speak out due to management reprisals.

This is Big Brother at its worst. At one station within a week of the mast being ‘turned on’, staff on the top floor of the building have had nose bleeds and headaches. These were people who had never suffered from these problems before.

The police forces through out the U.K. are also duty bound to uphold Health & Safety law and have due care; however, this is being ignored. The law in question is Statutory Instrument 1999 number 3242, which is the risk assessment for Tetra masts. The Home Office and Forces are aware, but choose to ignore it. It is all to do with ‘number crunching’, risk and loss. Big companies such as O2 and Motorola employ risk assessors to work out what it would cost the company if that company were taken to court over a liability claim, how much it would cost the company if it was to lose a claim for compensation, over the profits made from their product. This has already been assesssed and O2 and the Government have set aside £25 million, for any health claims concerning Tetra.

In comparison to the projected profits, which is £billions, you can see how money talks!

In respect to Tetra, it has already cost one life. This was when the system interfered with equipment on board an ambulance. The NHS has already put out a memo regarding the use of Tetra in or near Hospitals and recently ACPO issued a memo with regard to the turning off Police vehicle Tetra sets when attending the scene of a road accident, and for officers to get clearence from the paramedics before using Tetra.

What about this wonderful multi-service radio system which would bring the emergency services together?

Fire brigades have already said it’s no good for them, as it cannot carry the data needed by their units.

It also interferes with Police speed equipment and has to be turned off while speed checks are carried out. Even the Motorola handbook quotes health warnings, ie, ALWAYS keep the handset more than 15 centimetres from pacemakers when turned on.

They also interfere with hearing aids. So how are officers to know if an OAP that they might be dealing with or walking by while using their radio, has a pacemaker fitted?

The whole system is just a money making exercise, it is no better than the systems currently being used. The current system can be encrypted: that’s been used for the last 10 to 15 years by specialist squads. There are still huge ‘black spots’ where there is no signal and signal dropout is a regular problem, so where is the improved officer safety?

Also, guess who is getting all the old radio frequencies once Tetra is introduced? Yep: O2!!

In all, someone in Government has made a lot of money at the expense of the tax payer. The only people with any ‘back bone’ who have rejected Tetra, is the Australian Police. Why have they rejected it? Because of safety risk and interference with other equipment.

Our Police Chiefs and senior managers just see the introduction of Tetra as a means of promotion and just don’t care about the consequences, they just blame O2.

DS, Norfolk

I am a Crime Scene Examiner for Lancashire Police - who as you will know were the first to use Tetra. We are concerned about the health risks since implementation but getting anything done about it is extremely difficult. We believe we are even more vulnerable to the effects as we use our own vehicles and not police vehicles - no hands-free or external aerial. There are [...] of us based in [...] and (all but one) of us are suffering from symptoms ranging from headaches/toothache/neuralgia to high blood pressure, and even a cancerous tumour in the throat. It is the tumour which has finally been the last straw and today we have refused to use them in our vehicles and at scenes (we use metallic fingerprint powders). We are a group of people who love our job and we are not ‘trouble-makers’ - but we are genuine in our belief that these radios are killing us.

Anon, Lancashire

 Do you need to speak anonymously? That’s fine. We are especially interested to hear from policemen and women who are not allowed to talk publicly about TETRA or their concerns. What do you think? And what about your union?


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