Houston's fleet of police helicopters could be flying without police on board, as Mayor Annise Parker looks at ways to put more officers on the streets.
Parker is examining all department operations, including the helicopter division, which currently includes 13 aircraft and 42 officers. Fourteen civilians perform maintenance on the aircraft at their Hobby Airport base.
“Every operation at HPD, including the helicopter division, is being looked at with an eye toward improved efficiency so that we can get more police back on the street,“ Parker said.
“This could involve placing civilians in positions currently held by uniformed officers. As of right now, no decisions have been made,” she said.
The proposal was met by resistance from police union officials.
“I don't think it's a good idea at all,“ said Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union.
“There's been many occasions where the pilots have set the copter down and taken actions as officers to save lives or make arrests of suspects — you're not going to have that ability if persons you have in that aircraft are not police officers,” Blankinship said
Ten of the 13 HPD helicopters are five-seat aircraft that carry a $2 million price tag when equipped with law enforcement equipment, including heat-sensing cameras, said Assistant Chief Vicki King. Helicopters not only track criminals during chases, or can detect them at night, but can locate hot spots in burning buildings to aid firefighters, she said.


Parker may pull officers from HPD's helicopters | Houston & Texas News | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle