Gardai concerned that walkie talkie sets pose risks to their health

An Garda Siochana

Tom Brady

Gardai believe their Tetra radio system poses risks to their health.

The annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors heard that the force may have been used as "guinea pigs" for the introduction of the system here, without proper studies being carried out in advance on health and safety grounds.

The conference was told there were particular concerns about using the hand-held terminals, or walkie talkie sets, in garda patrol cars or stations.

Association vice president Willie Gleeson said Tetra was an encrypted and safe radio system, that could not be hacked.

But he said members were concerned about the health issues and an investigation should be carried out now to determine if action should be taken.

He said some experts had warned that using the Tetra sets indoors was similar to being in a microwave oven.

The only protection for gardai using their sets in a patrol vehicle was to wind down the windows.

He also said people living near radio masts or aerials could be at risk and that needed further study.

The conference today will also debate an emergency motion seeking the suspension of new regulations directing sergeants to supervise rank and file members.

The regulations are being introduced by garda management in response to criticisms from the Garda Inspectorate about the lack of supervision being carried out within the force.

Association deputy general secretary John Jacob said members wanted the directive put on hold until new IT infrastructure was rolled out in the summer to show sergeants who they were meant to supervise and what incidents were involved.

At the moment, his members did not even know in some cases were being assigned to supervisory duties,

He also complained that some were being assigned to incidents that did not require supervision.

Association president Tim Galvin criticised the proposed new powers for the Garda Ombudsman, which, he said, would lead to an increase in vexatious complaints and would give a power of veto to a complainant on whether an investigation could result in disciplinary charges or criminal action.

The conference is also due to debate the fall in garda numbers and delegates say the current intake of 300 recruits is not sufficient to meet the reduction in strength through retirements and resignations.

Delegate Patricia Gill, from Pearse Street in Dublin, said Ireland had a similar population to Scotland where there were 17,000 police officers, compared to less than 13,000 here.