I-Team: Cleveland police choppers grounded due to red tape

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CLEVELAND – The Fox 8 I-TEAM has found your safety potentially at risk in part because of bureaucratic red tape.  They have uncovered a new problem that is keeping the Cleveland police choppers on the ground.

The I-TEAM found a maintenance contract did not get renewed, and that has led to even more cutbacks with the choppers.

Cleveland City Hall confirms that the contract expired at the beginning of July. This comes on top of budget shortages. Two Cleveland police shoppers can still fly for special events or major incidents, but the lack of a maintenance contract means even more cutbacks on routine patrols from the air.

Just weeks ago, Council Public Safety Chairman Matt Zone went up in a Cleveland police chopper to learn more about the operations and the cost. Now Zone wants to find out more about how the maintenance contract expired.

“I’m a little troubled by it. We should know well in advance so we can have the proper plans and approval in place so that when this comes up we don’t have these lapses,” he said.

The police chopper unit is now down to two full-time members. The unit can call in two other Cleveland officers to fly, but years ago, the choppers flew most afternoons and evenings.

When asked why council hasn’t done more about the cutbacks, Zone replied, “I don’t know if Council has done as much as it perhaps should have. Again we’re not administrators. I don’t administer the city. We’re policy makers. Our job is to ask the tough questions and that’s what I intend to do.”

As for letting the helicopter maintenance contract expire, the I-TEAM spoke to the company that has maintained Cleveland police choppers for many, many years. That company pointed to “some sort of paperwork problem.”

A city spokesperson says the maintenance contract expired because both sides were upset about certain elements, and the city is working out a new deal. As for when that might happen, the target is “soon.” Until then, police helicopter crews are conserving hours of flying.

Last week the police union spoke out because a chopper crew was not available after a baby got shot. Union President Steve Loomis said,”We don’t have an hour and a half to get the helicopter in the air and where it needs to be when we have an active shooter situation. And every minute that thing stays on the ground it puts all of us at risk.”

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