Budget Slashed Last Year, Department Wants To Sell Two Aircraft
The union representing police officers in the city of Houston, TX, have officially backed the restoration of funding for continuous air patrols over the city. Last year, Police Chief Chalres McClelland reduced the number of hours flown by the department's 13 helos to three hours per day. Prior to those cuts, a helicopter had been continuously airborne much like patrol cars roam the city, offering what the union says was a way to very quickly respond to any crime scene.
The Houston Chronicle reports that police union president Ray Hunt says that eight members of the HPD aviation unit have been transferred to other duties. And while flight time has been increased slightly since the cuts made last year, the aircraft still only spend about 20-30 percent of the time in the air as they did previously.
City Councilman Mike Sullivan said the need to wait 10-15 minutes for an aircraft to be dispatched to a crime scene is "reactive" and "a horrible way to run an operation."
In an additional cost-savings move, two older aircraft in the department's 13 helicopter fleet have been put up for sale. In a statement, HPD Executive Assistant Chief Michael Dirden said that Mayor Annise Parker should consider a tax increase, apply for grants, or ask for assistance from neighboring municipalities if money cannot be found in the police budget to restore the air patrols. He said the department could double or triple the hours spend flying with the personnel currently assigned to the air unit ... but "it's a money issue."