As agencies consider budget cut backs, they need to consider how they can continue to provide excellent police services, with less money. Cut programs that don’t work, cut pay and benefits that are too expensive and reduce other expenses. The City of Costa Mesa, CA is considering the elimination of their helicopter program. One of the sergeants working the program makes over $180,000 per year. That’s a lot of money for one officer, but will cutting the program really make that great a difference? Will that officer be terminated, transferred or simply retire if that position is no longer available?
If that officer retires, then the city won’t save much from his costs and will get no more work from him. If the other officers in the helicopter unit just transfer then the savings will be small. The other issue to look at his how much value does the helicopter provide to the city? Officers don’t have to check building roofs; they just call the helicopter to take a look from above. An officer checking a roof that falls off the roof could cost the city millions in workers compensation costs. That would pay for a helicopter.
How often does the agency capture criminals that are located by the helicopter? Air units can see over obstacles that ground units can’t see over. Helicopters with various sensors can see in the dark and direct ground units in pursuits. This allows officers to back off in a vehicle pursuit and avoid injuries to themselves and innocent drivers. Again, great value for the money expended. Cuts can be made in police budgets, but it is irresponsible to cut budgets in such a manner that the public and the officers will be endangered; that’s what the SGT Says.