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Internal documents leaked from Scotland Yard provide evidence that the Metropolitan Police force's reorganisation may be overloading personal radio networks. Beat officers have repeatedly claimed that delays in making radio contact with their headquarters could be putting their lives at risk.

Radio traffic loading figures obtained by Scotland Yard's own radio system engineering branch last year, and those from a study in 1991 by Touche Ross Management Constultants, show that the new super divisions created by the shake up will at times be working at 'saturation point' in terms of the radio traffic they have to cope with.

This could lead to unreasonable queuing to gain access to radio channels, increasing the potential danger for constables on the beat.

In his annual report on Monday, Sir Paul Condon, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, drew attention to the daily risks faced by his officers by referring to 'tragedies over the past year. Two were the deaths of PC Patrick Dunne and Sgt Derek Robertson, who were killed on duty.

In one division, according to a note sent by its chief superintendent to an area commander, instructions were given to beat officers not to carry out checks with the police national computer (PNC) via personal radios. Because radio traffic was so busy, the computer checks had been crowded off the system, making it near impossible for officers to check details of suspects.

A letter from Les Poole, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Met's Five Area, to Robert Hunt, Assistant Commissioner of territorial operations, seen by Independent London, gives details of radio traffic densities.

It says 'traffic density levels of up to .5 Erlangs (the unit used to measure radio traffic density) are acceptable in the radio technology world, adding that the traffic density for the new Battersea division is .424 and for Wandsworth, .461.

Although the Wandsworth division is close to the saturation point it is only the 27th busiest for personal radio traffic in a league table of the 61 Metropolitan Police divisions. Hammersmith division is highlighted as operating on a .67 density factor, which is over the limit recommended by experts.

In spite of mounting grassroots pressure to slow down Met reorganisation, which involves redrawing the eight Met areas into five, senior officers are happy with its progress.

Commander Poole says: 'A . . . report which had been circulated in February 1994 indicated that the amalgamation would increase the traffic on both divisions (Battersea and Wandsworth). The document concluded that 'the proposed amalgamation should proceed, because the risks (were only) moderately greater than the risks of congestion before amalgamation'. The creation of the two superdivisions went ahead at the end of June.

An investigation is under way in Wandsworth division after a woman constable, who was injured after she and a colleague grappled with an assailant for six minutes, claimed she had been unable to summon help on her walkie-talkie for more than five minutes.

Because of the merger of two divisions in Wandsworth more people were using the UHF walkie-talkies which had to operate on one frequency.

A letter sent in February from a retired Wandsworth chief superintendent warns against rushing the reorganisation. In it Edward Large refers to the report from the Yard's technology division, saying 'this indicates that the new W division will, at times, be working to saturation point in terms of radio traffic and unreasonable queuing will result. This is clearly unacceptable and apart from being obstructive to everyday policing, produces the potential for real danger to officers working at street level.

He said: 'The new LX (Vauxhall) division has recently undergone an amalgamation process and the inadequacy of the radio system is causing severe problems . . . As I understand it, an instruction has been issued to the effect that PNC checks will not be carried out on the radio. Such a situation is untenable.

Commander Poole says in his letter that the Met has spent pounds 126,000 changing from Stornophone radios, used in the divisions, to Motorola radios.

A constable on the beat, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'Three more officers who called for help and could not get assistance have submitted complaints about being unable to get through on the radio system.

He said: 'The Motorola radios we have been given are not new. They have been battered about. And if you peel off the sticker saying W division it says CX underneath. This is the identification for Belgravia division.

A letter in the police newspaper The Job from Sgt Alistair Hill and 82 other officers at Chelsea division, being amalgamated with Kensington to form the Brompton division, said: 'We feel the unnecessary haste will affect the service we offer to the public.

Assistant Commissioner Ian Johnston, who is heading a study on the radio system, said yesterday that the general condition of the Met's radio system was recognised as being 'less than satisfactory and negotiations to implement a new system were at an advanced stage.

Scotland Yard said a meeting had been organised between Mr Johnston, divisional chief superintendents and leading members of the police technology department. It said: 'The amalgamation will go ahead in such a way that it does not leave us with insufficient air space.

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