Friday, July 13, 2012

Seen Huntington Beach Helicopters Lately?

If you're a municipal fire chief would you send your entire staff and all their equipment 500 miles away to a conference at the same time?  Of course not!  If you're a police chief would you send your entire force, including all their cars, motorcycles and other specialized equipment to a workshop in another state at the same time?  Of course not!

OK, how then, do we explain the fact that the entire Huntington Beach helicopter program - all three choppers and all their pilots - have decamped to Reno, Nevada for the Airborne Law Enforcement Conference this week?  Read about it HERE. That's right - the whole shebang flew their choppers 500 miles away, apparently leaving their home city and contract cities - Costa Mesa and Newport Beach - to be covered by Anaheim and/or the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

A friend alerted me to this bizarre situation late last night - too late to do any follow-up with officials in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.  I did send an email to Chief Tom Gazsi last night, though, and he replied that he'd seen a communication from Huntington Beach that their choppers would not be available until next Monday.  Apparently the Orange County Sheriff's Department and Anaheim would provide coverage.


Police personnel in Newport Beach also confirmed that the Huntington Beach helicopters were not presently available, and that they would be contacting other agencies for help if necessary.

I tried to contact officials in Huntington Beach about this situation, but, being Friday, had a hard time finding anyone in charge that could respond to the question.  Finally I was connected with a captain in the Police Department.  When I asked him about this report he replied, "Definitely not!", and took offense that I would put any credence to such an unsubstantiated rumor.  He said, "They're all over at the heliport!"  We talked awhile, then he said he'd check this out and get back to me, which he did within a few minutes.  That call was very different.  He confirmed that the entire helicopter staff had flown their choppers to Reno for the conference.  He told me that McDonald Douglas paid for one chopper to go as a marketing effort to sell more of their helicopters and that the others flew up to Reno so the pilots could get "cross-country time".  He apologized to me for his earlier hostile response, stating that he just couldn't imagine all the pilots and all the equipment flying off to Reno at the same time.  Hmmm, neither could I.

Having flown helicopters in the military myself, I understand the interest in getting "cross-country time" under your belt.  In the normal course of patrolling locally the opportunity for such flights would be few and far between.  Once you're licensed it's not required, but is helpful to keep your skills up.  I don't have a problem with that.  Nor do I have a problem with pilots attending that conference.  What I DO have a problem with is the entire crew ALL attending at the same time, leaving their area of responsibility for other entities to TRY to cover!

Beyond being a truly strange management decision, the potential impact on local public safety is enormous!  They will be gone through this entire weekend - a time when the Orange County Fair opens with what is expected to be record crowds AND both Newport Beach and Huntington Beach are expecting large beach crowds, too. 
OK, and before you jump all over me for implying that the absence of Huntington Beach helicopters is costing us money, I know that we only pay them for the actual hours we use.  That's not the question.  The question is one of professional responsibility and what certainly seems to be a major lapse in management judgment on the part of those in charge over on the other side of the Santa Ana River.

I don't know if the terms of the contract Costa Mesa has with Huntington Beach require a certain level of availability or not.  I imagine there is an expectation of a minimum level of coverage somewhere in it - maybe not.  I've spoken with former A.B.L.E. members who tell me that this conference is a very valuable training experience, but they NEVER sent the entire organization at the same time.  Usually one flight crew and a supervisor would attend, then share the knowledge acquired with the remainder of the organization.  And, they NEVER flew A.B.L.E. choppers to these events - they flew commercial airlines.

Is this a big deal?  I don't know... you tell me.  I acknowledge a heightened sensitivity to this issue because of the rapidly-rising crime rate in Costa Mesa and wonder how more frequent helicopter coverage might affect it.  In my view, it becomes a big deal if we need helicopter coverage on an event and can't get it on a timely basis because our contractor is out of town.  I'm interested in your views...


Labels: , ,


Blogger just wondering... said...

If it weren't for the lack of sufficient officers in Costa Mesa, I'd think it wasn't a big deal. However, our CC has created such a lack of security in Costa Mesa, that all we can do is hope that they won't be needed for a couple days.

7/13/2012 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Judy Lindsay said...

This is unconscionable act jeopardizing our cities safety. I believe in training, conferences etc.... but someone has to stay hone to answer the phone!!!!!

7/13/2012 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Meh, deputize one of those annoying news helicopters. They show up whenever there is anything interesting gong on anyway.

Much like SWAT and other specialized police activities, I have always felt that the taxpayers of Orange county would be better served to have the Sheriff's Department provide those services to all cities than have each city replicate the training and equipment needed.

It would be interesting to do an analysis of unit deployments county wide and determine just how often over the last 20 years two cities have had their helicopters in REAL use at the same time. the same thing with SWAT. My guess is that it is a rare occurrence and even then may have been unnecessary.

7/13/2012 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous mutual aid said...

Maybe Costa Mesa can borrow the great park balloon from Irvine and just have an officer float around in that...

7/13/2012 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve-O Manslinger said...

Mutual aid--I looked into the Great Park Balloon already, but it was constructed by "union thugs" so Riggy said no way Jose.

7/13/2012 05:56:00 PM  
Anonymous SQUAD51 said...

The real reason that Costa Mesa has a contract with HB is so Righeimer and Mensinger can say stuff like... "We now have a police helicopter service that spends more time over our city at a fraction of the cost" (Daily Pilot).

That's a complete lie of coarse but the point being... if you believe that, it makes them look like they've done something good and you can't say they've hurt public safety because we still have one.

Considering the "fraction of the cost" thing... the chopper HB1 uses is more expensive to operate on an hourly basis than the EC120 that ABLE used.
And... the officers that fly HB1 don't make any less money in pay and benifits than ABLE's pilots did.
How does HB1 cost less?

A huge reduction in service is the only way it can... simple math (that's real math, not Riggy math).

So.... getting to the question about that level of service and whether it really matters if they're unavailable... ask a cop.

I did... "Compared to ABLE, has HB1 ever been of any value to you on a call?" The Costa Mesa officer I asked said... "NO".

That's just one cops experience though and to be fair, I didn't ask them all.

If however... that's the general concensis, then I guess it doesn't really matter that they're in Reno.

What actually matters to the cops on the ground and the public that benifits from a first rate service like ABLE is that they're gone and no part time political ploy as a replacement is really worth much.

7/13/2012 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous checkyourmensinger said...

Getting rid of Able really didn't work out like we wanted. We were suppose to eliminate the positions to get rid of the Union dues that then get funneled to the democrats. They just folded them back into the force and we still pay them and then they pay their unions dues which support the dems. Damn it. That's what this is all about. The only city employees we want are managers that oversee the 400-500 contractors we want to outsource to.

7/13/2012 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous wishemaway said...

maybe we should just stop helicopter service. seems there are either command or $$ problems always associated with them. they pit citizen against citizen and cop against cop.

7/13/2012 09:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Problem Solved said...

Let's fill the already gigantic Riggy with helium and float him above the city. Then he and Mensy can text back and forth and decide what to tell the public about what's happening below..

"One Adam 12, Balloon-Boy reports union thugs earning a decent living at 17th and Orange.."


7/14/2012 07:06:00 AM  
Anonymous shix said...

checkyourmensinger has it correct again. We SHOULD BE a contract city with good managers in place to oversee them That is why south county cities as a whole are doing better than others. They are newer cities also so infrastructure better too but contracts have flexibiity to expand or contract depending on manpower needed. Employees more motivated to do a good job also or they get the boot.It is good to see City Hall gearing up at 5th floor to be ready to become a contract city.

7/14/2012 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Mario Puzo said...

"ready to become a contract city."

OCGOP put a contract out on Costa Mesa when they sent Napoleon Righeimer.

7/14/2012 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Election Strategery said...


Can you swing by Victoria Secret and pick something up.

I have this hot little badge bunny that would love it. You did it for Reik-me-off.

I am sacking my breaks so we can spend a little quality time. Hurry up. I am doing this on the clock so my wife doesn't find out.

Thanks for having my back. That's what boys in blue do for each other.

PS, who is driving the No Mensinger sign this year. Stack your breaks too so we can meet to discuss.

7/14/2012 05:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Need Mutual Aid said...

Squad 51,

Can you please swing by Victoria Secret and pick up a little something for my badge bunny. Thanks.

Like Reik-me-off, I am stacking breaks. Us boys in blue need to stick together.

We need some strategery for the election. So let's meet, we can grab donuts and ask Dimel to get back on the blogs to use his cop math to share why ABLE would not cost taxpayers Anthony. I love the way he fails to include himself in the math equation.

Cop math and fear based budgets have worked in the past. Let's do it again.

Crime is up, got it, and we can get Wendy Leece to run around town and question safety. Even Geoff West will perpetuate the fear.

Remember in November

7/15/2012 07:59:00 AM  
Anonymous History Channel said...

A faction with one of its members having been a defendant in multiple harassment cases probably shouldn't be making jokes about women.. Unless they're trying to distract..

7/15/2012 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Joy Williams said...

This is irresponsibility on steroids! It's a good thing we did NOT have a major disaster while the equipment was not available. Costa Mesa should get a pro rata refund for all the time they were in Reno and unable to perform on and fulfill the contract. This is similar to taking the Super Scooper planes to a convention during the height of fire season.
What on earth were they thinking???

7/16/2012 08:22:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home