Where is the Flint Police Department’s helicopter?
City Council approved the $300K lease at the end of July. Six weeks later, it’s still not on patrol yet.
FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Six weeks ago, Flint’s City Council approved the lease for the police department’s helicopter.
That vote came just days after the Mayor declared a state of emergency in the city, as a result of rapidly rising gun violence statistics.
The helicopter, Flint’s Police Chief said, could help them fight crime.
So where is it?
ABC12 spoke one-on-one with Chief Terence Green to find out.
At last check, he said he’s hopeful the helicopter will take flight this weekend.
But in that same conversation, he told ABC12 News he’s already looking towards saving it until next summer.
It was evident Green is a little frustrated.
“I’m not feeling great about it,” he said.
Chief Green asked for the assistance of a helicopter at the beginning of the summer. The plan was to get the equipment overhead, helping officers on the ground.
He’s pointed out road patrols are having trouble catching up to drag racers. He also explained because they’re so overworked, the helicopter would be of great assistance right after a shooting, when the potential suspect tries to get away.
“We’re not going to get the full value out of it that we expected to get this summer before I went to City Council,” Green said. “And that was a major delay in it.”
Chief Green believes Council took too long to approve the added resource.
He said all he needed was a ‘yes’ vote to spend the $300,000 already in the budget.
They gave him that approval on July 26th. The next day, Chief Green told ABC12 the helicopter should be in the air that weekend.
But the Chief explained logistical issues with the contract slowed them down. Now 6 weeks later, the last ‘hang up,’ he said is perfecting communication from the air to the ground.
“We want that to be perfect. So, meaning if the officers can’t understand or hear or communicate properly with the pilot, or the tactical flight officer to the ground units, it’s not gonna be that effective,” he said.
So at this point, Chief Green said the Department is changing up the flight schedule, while staying within the same fiscal year.
“So hopefully we can get this restarted in April. So we’ll work through hopefully, May, June and July,” Green said. “And again, that’s gonna be dependent up on our data and evidence. This helicopter deployment is evidence based and data driven.”
Chief Green added that he’s still hoping to use the helicopter next month, around Devil’s Night and Halloween.
A reminder the $300,000 price tag is not being covered by taxpayer money. Chief Green said it’s dollars his officers generated by impounding vehicles.
That total cost is expected to pay for use of the aircraft, paying the pilot, storage at Bishop International Airport, insurance, equipment and fuel.
Chief Green explained the company providing the chopper will pilot it, with one of his officers as co-pilot.
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