Monday, March 22, 2010

Law Enforcement Helicopters Under Fire?

The Orange County Register ran an interesting article today entitled, "Police helicopter programs get trimmed" by reporter Annie Burris, in which the impact of tightened budgets on airborne law enforcement operations in Orange County is discussed. You can read the entire article HERE. Be sure to examine the photo array that is also linked to that article for some terrific shots that demonstrate the value of helicopter patrols.

The article comments on the A.B.L.E. program, which is run as a joint venture by the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Newport Beach Police Department, with Santa Ana also participating as a contracting agency. It also mentions the airborne units operated by Huntington Beach, Anaheim, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol.

The A.B.L.E. program, which operates a fleet of three Eurocopters, has been part of extensive discussions recently as both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach wrestle with diminishing revenues.

The article presents many pro-helicopter viewpoints from members of law enforcement so, during her investigation of this subject the reporter wanted to get comments from residents who might have a less-than-positive viewpoint of airborne policing. At the suggestion of another Register staffer the author tried to contact the perky Judi Berry - she who fancies herself the municipal fiscal watchdog - for comment. Unfortunately, she was apparently not available, so Burris interviewed that paragon of pomposity, her husband, Mike Berry.

According to Burris, old Mike, while acknowledging that helicopters are useful, "wonders if the agencies are getting the best bang for their buck." She goes on to quote Mike as saying, "Once you satisfy the need of people on the ground, then spend the leftover money on a helicopter. The county has more realistic need for one but when it comes to a five (miles) by five (miles) city (of Costa Mesa) you could cover it with a Moped."

I'm sure the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department will be quite pleased to learn that old Mike thinks our city could receive effective law enforcement coverage if the staff used Mopeds. I suggest we use their Westside neighborhood as a test site. How about, for the remainder of the year, any calls for service received for addresses within a half mile of the Berry's residence be responded to by an officer on a Moped?

Those of us who have been observers of city politics are familiar with the Judi and Mike tag team. They frequently appear as a "doubles team", each stepping up to the podium to present their wisdom for the City Council to hear. Actually, it's usually Judi who presents the more cogent views, while Mike just prattles on, demonstrating his lack of understanding of the issues, but doing it with bravado, bluster and flare.

The fact that old Mike continues to willingly display his ignorance for all to see is scary enough. Of greater concern is the fact that someone at the Orange County Register thought that he was a good source for community input! Geez! That's like asking our old pal, The Mouth From Mesa North, about the positive influence of Latino culture on our society, for goodness sake!

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Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

I don't see eye to eye with Mr. and Mrs. Judy Berry very often, but I may be closer in this case. I do believe that capital investment should be regional, not local. That goes for things like fire trucks etc. as far as I am concerned. Why does every agency in the world have to have its own mechanics, facilities, etc. for all of this hardware? Wouldn't it be more cost efficient if a regional agency purchased, maintained, and in some cases, like water dropping aircraft and emergency response helicopters, operate the equipment?

I believe that we need to rethink some of the decisions that were made decades ago and perhaps could be refined based on the knowledge we have gained over the years. The status quo is too expensive in my view.

3/23/2010 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bruce, you may be correct. Presently Costa Mesa is able to share the costs of A.B.L.E. with Newport Beach and, to some extent, Santa Ana. I think there is no doubt about the law enforcement value of an airborne presence, but it might be better to have one entity - perhaps the OC Sheriff's Dept. - cover the entire county. It wouldn't mean fewer choppers necessarily, but regional control seems to be worth evaluating.

I doubt you agree with Mike's suggestion that we should be patrolling our city on Mopeds, though. :-) :-)

3/23/2010 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I live near the beach and like a lot of CdM residents, we get a lot of helicopter action. I wish the NBPD would add to their online logs WHAT the helicopters are doing. I get so many calls and emails asking me, and when I ask what's going on, typically no one knows. It seems if something going on is important enough to need helicopters, then the public should be able to easily find out what it is.

3/23/2010 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Darryl Kimball said...

Excellent read. Thanks for supporting your local law enforcement and recognizing the value of having airborne law enforcment assets in your county and community!

3/23/2010 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Don't knock mopeds!! They have their place, as do segways, horses and feet! :) You are right though, I wouldn't trade helicopter support for moped support exclusively.

I would love to see a black and white moped though! Totally tricked out with lights, siren, shotgun rack, radio and radar gun!

3/23/2010 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Amy, a problem might be that A.B.L.E is a separate entity - a joint venture of the CMPD and the NBPD. I'll see what I can find out from the guys who run it.

Darryl, thanks for the kind words... we need to provide the police with the tools to do their jobs well.

Bruce, have you seen the recent segment on CMTV that covers the 3Motion machine? Here's the URL:

3/23/2010 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I understand that ABLE is separate but wouldn't the NBPD call them, and wouldn't that request be easy enough to add to their online logs?

3/23/2010 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Amy, logic would assume you are correct. However, politics and testosterone sometimes complicates life... One would think a tenacious real reporter might dig into this issue and report back - you know, someone with a degree from a great "J" school (with a marginal basketball team), who has actually worked the crime beat on a major newspaper... Know anyone like that? :-) :-)

3/23/2010 09:17:00 PM  
Anonymous mdm resident said...

Jeff – obviously I don’t post here much anymore but thought this one worthy of inserting foot into something. I believe the City is not server best with A.B.L.E. and could resource the money much better with – of all things – bicycles. Mopeds may even be better if you really think about it but bikes and foot patrols in certain areas would lend themselves better to the COP process that CMPD states is a portion of its mission statement but falls way short in reality of performing.

Cops on the beat and on foot or bike would have a better understanding of their environment then locking themselves in radio-cars and looking to respond to issues rather then proactively engage themselves on their beats.

This is a tactic well served in other municipalities and I believe would strengthen the bond between residents and police as well as make the presence of law enforcement more available and visible then a circling, gas guzzling helo.

4/04/2010 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Andrew, er, mdm resident, you've been missed...

I don't disagree that there may be venues where foot patrols or more low-tech vehicles like the 3Tmotion vehicle being shown in one of the clips on CMTV might be effective. However, we're talking apples and oranges here. The helicopter provides a very different perspective of our city and the other cities patrolled by A.B.L.E. Could we get along without a dedicated helicopter fleet? Probably. Are the three helicopters we currently fly too expensive for the benefits they provide? Maybe. However, the Chief of Police, City Manager and our City Council have to make that call. I do have some familiarity with other law enforcement organizations and EVERY one of them feel helicopter support is worth the cost. It will be interesting to see if A.B.L.E. survives the 2010/2011 budget process. Thanks for your opinion...

4/04/2010 11:19:00 PM  

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