A.B.L.E. - End Of Watch
On Thursday, June 30, the final official flight of the AirBorne Law Enforcement (A.B.L.E.) helicopter, Eagle, will take place. On that date the Eagle will have its wings clipped and will be grounded forever. Effective July 1st the helicopter program that, in one form or another, has served the Newport-Mesa communities for more than four decades will simply cease to exist, de-funded by an ignorant City Council "Working Group" - Gary Monahan and Jim Righeimer - that hatched the scheme in private and convinced the other two members of the majority to go along with it.
MORE THAN FOUR DECADES OF SERVICE ENDS
The original local helicopter patrol program was founded by Costa Mesa in 1971. More than two decades later, following a tragic mid-air collision in 1987 between two helicopters - one from Costa Mesa and one from Newport Beach - that might have ended the helicopter program, A.B.L.E. was formed by Costa Mesa and Newport Beach in 1997 to provide a coordinated effort for air support of local public safety agencies. It became the model for all other local airborne law enforcement entities throughout the country.
A.B.L.E. has provided air-support service to the cities of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. A.B.L.E. patrolled a diverse area which included commercial and residential areas, a state park, one of the nations busiest small craft harbors and 10 miles of coastline.
PATROL, FIRE SUPPRESSION AND RESCUE
In addition to providing patrol oversight and responding to calls for service. It trained annually, deploying lifeguards into the water from the helicopter and providing rapid transport for victims. It was equipped with a "Bambi Bucket", a 108 gallon fire suppression tool used to rapidly quench small fires before they became bigger ones. They've been essential tools in locating lost hikers and mountain bikers in the state park and other back-country areas.
THE MISSION STATEMENT
A.B.L.E.'s mission statement reads as follows: "The mission of Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE) is to provide air support to our member public safety personnel and neighboring agencies. We will enhance the protection of public safety personnel and the security of our citizens with efficient, proactive air support. we are dedicated to accomplishing our mission in a safe and professional manner." Anyone paying attention for the past few decades will have to agree that, right up to the end, they've continued to meet that goal with courage, skill and professionalism.
DIMEL'S EXPLANATION OF A.B.L.E.
In March of 2011 Costa Mesa Police Officer and one of the senior A.B.L.E. pilots, Rob Dimel, wrote a commentary about the possible dissolution of A.B.L.E. in the Daily Pilot, HERE.
BARBARA'S BITS ON A.B.L.E.
In case you need another reminder of just what A.B.L.E. does, sit back for a couple minutes and enjoy this little recent video clip from Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia's "Barbara's Bits" archives. This will help you understand just what's been taken away from us by a guy intent on getting a boost up the political ladder.
NO LOGIC IN THE FABRICATED "BUDGET CRISIS"
The current Costa Mesa City Council, led by Righeimer, used their fabricated budget "crisis" as a sledgehammer to shut down the A.B.L.E. program and decided to do so effective the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1st, even though the July 4th holiday is typically one of the times when the helicopters are called upon the most by police and fire agencies for support. This year, also demonstrating their lack of wisdom, the Costa Mesa City Council has chosen to pander to the youth sports community and is permitting the discharge of fireworks not just on the 4th, but on the 2nd and 3rd, as well. That would typically mean a greater demand for A.B.L.E. support over the entire holiday weekend.
PLENTY OF MONEY TO KEEP FLYING
Even though there is enough money - estimated at nearly $5 million - in the A.B.L.E. reserve accounts to fully fund all operations for at least two years, the council stubbornly refused to even consider extending this outstanding public safety service. In fact, Righeimer pointedly refused to even extend it four days, until July 5th - giving his pal, Steve Mensinger, a stern "NO!" when he asked him to do that at a recent council meeting. It is that kind of heels-dug-in thinking that is presently tearing this city apart and placing all residents and visitors in jeopardy.
FITZPATRICK TELLS YOU HOW IT IS
As each day passes it becomes more and more clear to me that there's much more at play here than simply trying to balance a budget. Righeimer very obviously has a very hard place in his heart for the Costa Mesa Police Department and any entity, like A.B.L.E., that's closely associated with it. He's apparently willing to put the public safety of all residents and visitors in jeopardy to satisfy whatever grudge he's carrying around with him. I assume it's because the CMPD actively campaigned against him last year. In fact, if you have any doubt about it, just listen to his lapdog, Planning Commissioner and member of the Sanitary District Board Jim Fitzpatrick, at the last council meeting. This pathetic man is still "hearing voices", and has not had an original thought pass his lips in the past couple years - ever since he became Sancho Panza to Steve Mensinger's Don Quixote. When he returned to his seat after this little speech I wanted to offer him a tissue to remove that brown stuff from his nose. NOTE: After much contemplation I decided to switch images. The other one offended too many readers. Such is life...
So, defying all logic and good judgment, the A.B.L.E. program will soon be only a memory - part of the rich history of the City of Costa Mesa and a proud element of the public safety organizations that has protected us for more than four decades. Barring some miracle in the form of a private/public partnership or a regional helicopter program that will utilize our team intact, A.B.L.E. is done on Thursday. There are no words to adequately tell those folks who supported and protected us in that fine program all these years how I feel, so I'll just let Mariah Carey do it for me... hit it, girl.