TETRA and the police
What is it, and what are the problems?
Lets be clear from the start, the police deserve excellent communications, for their safety and for their effectiveness in fighting crime on our behalf. Lets be clear, the Government has sold off their old VHF radio frequencies prematurely. But lets also be clear that just because the pressure is on does not make TETRA acceptable on grounds of health risk, of cost, and of functionality.
There is a letter at the end of this page that sets out a stark warning.
Pity the poor police? They will have to use TETRA handsets, which nobody argues about emitting pulsed radiation. Reassurances have been made about using them hands free to avoid proximity to the head, and some experiments have been made regarding the effects of use in vehicles, and the risk of the signals being intensified. Explanations of hands free and external aerials wont help any who have to use their own or unmarked cars. Under Home Office research, over a 15 year period (!) 100,000 officers were to be monitored for health effects using TETRA. (We now learn that the monitoring is to cover all officers.)
Is that an acceptable or ethical form of research? It reminds one of Porton Down. Ah; actually Porton Down has been doing some of the Home Office TETRA research...
Unlike us, police employees have health and safety legislation to resort to if things start to go wrong. What we are hearing, however, is that like us, police employees have been told nothing. However, police officers in many forces are worried, and understandably the police authorities feel the need to reassure them. With NRPB information of course. In one police force, in order to help officers get over their fears, there is an email hotline called Rumour Control. Subtle.
Just reflect a minute: the Stewart report and its 2004 follow up say that over-use of mobile phones is unwise, and that calls should be kept brief. Here is the Unison advice leaflet. So being obliged to use a mobile phone a lot, as part of your job, is ill-advised. Nevertheless, you have no protection in terms of Health & Safety advice, because this relies on ICNIRP (use our search to find more about ICNIRP) and has no guide on SAR levels with respect to call duration, or number of calls per day. TETRA has the additional pulse features, an aggressive wave form, and the 400MHz skull resonance features. Is it wise that this is the mainstay of your daily communications? VHF was high powered and just above the 400MHz band, true; but it wasnt a pulsed signal, where the peak pulse power is transient but at coherent frequencies.
Official stories disagree: a police death attributed to use of TETRA is misreported for obscure reasons.
Disturbing news: Leicestershire police deaths attributed to use of TETRA
More news: three Leicester officers with oesophageal tumours; two dead. And two throat cancers in the Lancashire force.
Read this official response to these statistically highly unlikely events.
Precautions for the police. From early warnings to latest updates on using handsets
Fact. A TETRA handset equidistant to two or three masts will, when switched on or off, try to work out which mast to communicate with. As it does this, its power output will increase as it tries all the masts in turn in rapid succession. A case of an unusual epileptic attack in a Thames Valley policemans home has been attributed to this effect. (Did you know an ordinary mobile phone emits 500 times the normal radiation when dialling out?)
Hiding from reality
In a number of areas now, the effects of TETRA on police officers is emerging. TETRA mounted on police station roofs, as well as use of handsets, handsets being used in the home (to play with and get used to) is directly affecting officers and their families. With officers being told to disperse to their own GPs if they have a problem, and with police Occupational Health difficult to locate (at least in some forces), what hope is there of identifying a national picture quickly? As far as the Health and Safety Executive is concerned, what the NRPB has to say is the bottom line. And the NRPB is not looking.
In the Leicestershire force, seven cases of cancer are being attributed to TETRA (October 2004). Seven is quite a step change from an average one case per year over the past 15 years.
There was national press coverage of adverse effects felt in North Walsham, Norfolk, and extensive local press coverage too. The Daily Telegraph article can still be read, but all articles relating to TETRA have been removed from the local press website. If these effects are truly being felt, censorship is a very cruel way of supporting government pressure to make TETRA work at all costs.
You are citizens with human rights like the rest of us. And like us, no-one is telling you much. We know that you are not permitted to talk, discuss or protest about this, for fear of your jobs. A tribunal might think differently, but you can communicate here. Just send your anonymous comments, but let us know that you work for the police and what your views and fears really are. How much do you know? Maybe youre totally convinced that we are wrong and that Airwave is completely safe? Tell us that too. We are interested in the balance of views.
Incidentally, in Sussex, your Assistant Chief Constable says: I do wish to confirm unequivocally that we have not in any way sought to preclude our staff from expressing their own personal views on this or any other issue.
(We heard that refusal to carry TETRA would be a dismissable offence; what can you tell us?)
Meanwhile, O2 Airwave is under pressure to create a testable network of transmitters, hence riding roughshod over us and avoiding or ignoring planning permission.
O2 Airwave is under further pressure because they dont get paid until their system is accepted by the police!
Meanwhile the police authorities are under pressure to go through acceptance testing just so they dont run out of time (end of 2005) to have any system at all!
With everyone under pressure, are we likely to get a fair, balanced and considered decision? Well that must now be up to us, but time is running out.
Furthermore, the risks of legal action are significant. What if a system fails to deliver, goes over budget, or makes people ill or die? That is the background your Police Authority is under. That is the situation in which your chief constable must make cool decisions.
Help your police authority. Act now!
Just in case those in authority are under too much pressure to make clear, cool decisions, you, me, we, must help to elucidate the argument for them. There is a great deal of international research available that casts sufficient doubt to make the decision to accept TETRA a very risky one. You can write to the Chair of your Police Authority (sample letters at Letters to the police).
Sussex Police Authority said they take our concerns seriously, but remain unconvinced, since all the experts have given TETRA a clean bill of health. The penalty of getting this wrong must no longer rely on the experts and flawed arguments, because our lives and those of our committed police force are at stake. There are only two real outcomes of TETRA:
Since the latter is such a serious outcome (remember cigarettes, asbestos, Thalidomide, CJD) only a moratorium for thorough and relevant research before irradiating the entire UK population is acceptable.
Here is a letter sent to South Wales police authority, that you might consider appropriate to make use of. Right click the link and Save as... to save this Word document, or click here to view in a web page.
For more help for police employees, see this Mast Sanity page.
TETRA at Southwick, W Sussex, low tower, surrounded by houses, a football club and leisure centre.