Police Use Selective Evidence

At the recent ACT public meeting in Alcester we went to great pains to ensure both sides of the Tetra debate were presented and to stress that we all support the Police in their need for a better communications system, but not at any cost. It was very clearly explained that we did not support Tetra.

In their own magazine “The Bear Facts”, here’s how the Police reported the meeting.

“Alcester Meeting Supports Police.

A public meeting in Alcester on 22nd July about communications masts including those for the Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) system used by Airwave was very supportive of police needs.

The force was invited to attend and explain why the Airwave system is needed. Airwave programme Manager Insp Ian Gillies gave a full account of the background to the system and the public benefits that will arise from it.

The force demonstrated further support for the meeting through representation in the audience by Insp Tim Bailey (Alcester) and the HQ Media and PR Dept. Ken Lambert attended to hear the debate on behalf of UNISON.

The meeting was inconclusive but there was encouragingly strong support for the police on both sides of the debate and unanimous recognition of it’s need to replace outdated technology with modern equipment”

If you weren’t at the meeting or haven’t read about it yet then please click here to read our full report.

If you were there or you have read the report then you might be forgiven for thinking the police report above is writing about a different meeting! Yes certainly we do all support the police and their need for better equipment but that was a very small part of a much bigger story.

As you would expect, ACT have written to the police to point out their rather selective use of the evidence.

“As one of those who organised the Alcester public meeting about communications masts, I would like to express my alarm at the selective nature of the report given on your Airwave update page. The meeting did indeed express support for the police and their need for better communications systems.

However, you omitted the salient fact that the meeting clearly was about the health concerns of the Airwave TETRA system – especially in light of the tragic death of PC Neil Dring so recently. It is the health aspect of this system that is causing anxiety for the main users, the Police, as well as the general public, which is why we called upon experts from both sides of the debate to discuss the matter.

When Dr. Michael Clark from the NRPB (National Radiation Protection Board) stated “So far, so good”, I hardly felt that was a positive or comforting indictment of the TETRA system. In fact, it is positively worrying. He also stated that more research was needed to be carried out – a 15-year programme on the police (and the general public by implication) is hardly the answer.

There’s an ever-growing dossier of anecdotal evidence that needs to be scientifically quantified. As the provider of this system, it is obvious that you do not wish for any adverse publicity, but to present such a sanitised version of what is being muted says everything about your company policy.”

I will bring any further contributions to this debate here.

In the meantime what has been glaringly omitted is that the police officers themselves, those who will have to use the Airwave Tetra system are terrified of it but not allowed to speak out against it. Officers may be scared but they are even more scared of raising their doubts more forcefully as it could impede their career.

This just doesn’t seem to be fair.

Let’s make it clear, we all want the police to have a better communication system. It’s a crime that our own home entertainment systems and mobile phones employ better technology than they have – the point is that the TETRA system is not it.

We feel extremely angry that there is so much bull and bluster concerning the whole issue. How come so many people who wouldn’t normally dream of protesting are raising their voices in alarm over the country? There needs to be an accessible way of putting all the facts so that people everywhere understand what is going on – there certainly isn’t at the moment. Lets just remind ourselves of how many other health concerns took years and countless deaths before the health problems were acknowledged: asbestos, thalidomide, sheep dip, smoking, gulf war syndrome – the list goes on.

At ACT, we shall lobby the House of Lords as well as the Commons. The police and the public deserve better.