Agsi questions safety of gardaí’s Tetra radio system

Experts liken using the system inside a vehicle or Garda station to ‘being inside a microwave oven’

Garda sergeants and inspectors have called into question the safety of the force’s Tetra radio system, saying some experts have likened using it inside a vehicle or Garda station to “being inside a microwave oven”

Garda sergeants and inspectors have called into question the safety of the force’s Tetra radio system, saying some experts have likened using it inside a vehicle or Garda station to “being inside a microwave oven”

 

Garda sergeants and inspectors have called into question the safety of the force’s Tetra radio system, saying some experts have likened using it inside a vehicle or Garda station to “being inside a microwave oven”.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) said there were real concerns for the safety of every member of the force using the system, especially the hand held walkie talkie radios.

“The Tetra system we have is not for general consumption among the public,” said Agsi vice president Willie Gleeson at the association’s annual conference in Trim, Co Meath, on Tuesday morning.

“ The police; some people will see them as guinea pigs in using this system, and particularly in relation to hand held terminals.

“For example, they should never be used inside in vehicles, where possible. They shouldn’t be used inside in buildings or in stations where possible, because the aerial which is transmitting and receiving is inside with you.”

He said other radio systems used inside vehicles or buildings operated off external aerials.

“There may also be issues in relation to people living and working near terminals and near radio installations and aerials. And that’s a matter that we would simply want more information on.

“Some experts describe using a walkie talkie hand held inside a car as the same as being inside a microwave oven.

“And the only protection you have really is the glass, or windows, if they’re wound down.”

Mr Gleeson questioned if studies had been carried out into the safety of the systems before they had been introduced for use in Irish policing.

Agsi president Tim Galvin said many of his members were concerned at the reform of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 which provided for, among other things, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and Garda Inspectorate.

He said the new Garda Síochána Amendment Bill of 2014 enabled the ombudsman to begin investigations into Garda members even in cases where there had been no complaint made against them.

This included commencing investigations into why individual Garda members had attracted large numbers of complaints, even if they had all been investigated and the complaints judged unfounded.

“The big one is for people like myself, who have had nine or 10 complaints against them all of which proved to be vexatious,” Mr Galvin said.

“I could be on a hit list and they could carry out an inquiry based on the new legislation without any complaint. The consequences for me could be very serious.”

He added Agsi’s concerns had been ignored by the legislators to date, but the organisation was determined to continue to raise its concerns in the hope they would eventually be addressed.

Association deputy general secretary John Jacob told delegates that Garda management was now assigning cases to sergeants to supervise even though they were not serious enough to warrant supervision.

He believed this was being done in a “ham-fisted” effort to address concerns expressed in a recent Garda Inspectorate report around inadequate supervision of rank and file gardai.

But Agsi believed the response to the Inspectorate report was counterproductive.

The association says the new overzealous assigning of sergeants to supervise minor cases was creating more administration than ever. And this was taking sergeants away front supervising frontline gardaí; a responsibility earmarked as priority by the Inspectorate.

Mr Jacob added sergeants assigned to cases were not being told they were being appointed to supervise them. And the rank and file gardaí they were supposed to be supervising were also not being informed.

A motion at Agsi’s conference on Tuesday will call for the new system of assigning sergeants to supervise more cases to be suspended until new IT infrastructure is rolled out in the summer that will keep sergeants and the gardaí informed about what personnel have been assigned to investigations.