Councilmembers criticize Mayor's HPD helicopter patrol cuts
He has a point. We'd rather see them deployed for crimefighting, but if they aren't going to be used, sell some of them.
One of the Houston Police Department's crime-fighting tools will soon be used much less.
Because of budget trouble, HPD's helicopters will only be flown three hours a day.
Houston City Councilman C.O. Bradford said that is a drastic reduction from what they typically fly, and this measure is being done to save on fuel and operating costs.
Bradford said each helicopter cost the city about $1.6 million. The department has 12 helicopters.
"We cannot afford to park -- literally park -- million-dollar helicopters with state-of-the-art technology on the ground," he said.
Retired Houston Police Officer and councilmember Ed Gonzalez agrees with Bradford:
"I know first hand how critical these helicopters and their pilots can be in assisting ground troops. They can help sometimes with car chases. It's a lot easier or more safe for a helicopter to be able to gain control of that chase, for example, by being the eyes that hover above, or sometimes if they're pursuing a suspect on foot as well."
He says a city as big as Houston cannot exist without police presence in the air.
[S]ome council members are asking the police chief to reconsider the cutbacks.
"That wasnít made very clear to us during the budget sessions," said Council Member James Rodriguez.
The head of the Houston Police Officers Union, Gary Blankinship, also said itís a costly move, since the city will fail to utilize 28 pilots.
"Extreme waste of resources," Blankinship said. "It costs a lot of money to train somebody to be an HPD helicopter pilot."
Didn't mayoral candidate Annise Parker promise no reduction in public safety resources?
It would seem that cutting HPD helicopter patrols so dramatically amounts to a reduction in crimefighting resources. Here's hoping the mayor will listen to the former cops on Council on this one and will look for savings elsewhere.