Archive for December 11th, 2011

December 11th, 2011

It’ll be all right when the new radio system comes in

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

The recent investigation into the Riots in the summer has found that the police Airwave radio system was found wanting when it didn’t work and officers were forced to use their own mobile phones to contact each other and the control rooms.

Prior to the introduction of the Airwave system, we had UHF and VHF systems. These had their limitations, they didn’t work sometimes and were subject to poor weather conditions, they were also insecure. I remember as a kid tuning into my local police force’s radio system and collecting all the weird and wonderful callsigns.

Airwave was the antidote to a poor radio system, secure and reliable.

In 1999 they said the system would costs something in the region of £2.3billion plus the cost of the equipment over the 22 years of it’s life.

We’ve been using Airwave for several years now and the findings of the riot inquiry will come as no surprise to anyone who has had to use the Airwave system. It didn’t work on the underground so BTP had problems until special equipment was put in. It doesn’t like working in buildings with a heavy metal content to the roof. Officers don’t mind this so much when they are having their breakfast in the local Tesco or Asda, as they can’t be contacted (except on their mobile phones).

In one of our divisions the worst place for radio reception is in the new police station, who’d have thought, a radio system that doesn’t work in the police station.

The signal falls in and out at will, people who have to listen to it will be familiar with the bucket of water or Dalek effect it has on speech when it decides to play up.

The masts are spread around the area but have a habit of falling over (not literally, they just pack up), this means the system won’t work at all in areas of the town and is more common than I think anyone foresaw. It results in officers being told to go back to the police station and do ‘fire brigade’ policing – only responding to emergencies – for health and safety reasons, which always strikes me as strange since it’s usually the emergency situations who pose the most risk to health and safety.