CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found the Cleveland police helicopters sitting on the ground almost all day every day instead of helping to protect you.
And, we’ve uncovered a big reason why.
The I-Team investigated how little time the choppers spend in the air even with violent crime skyrocketing.
We reviewed flight records. The city has two police helicopters.
But, for the first 6 months of this year, a Cleveland police helicopter flew on only 24 days. During that time, the choppers were in the air for a total of only 73.2 hours, a few hours at a time.
Occasionally, we’ve seen a police chopper in the middle of a big operation as we did in March. A helicopter played a big role in taking down teen carjackers suspected of dozens of crimes.
Yet, we spoke to the father of a man hurt in a carjacking in Tremont, and he reacted to our findings.
He said, “If you’ve got two helicopters, one should be flying.” He added, “If you’re not using the tools available, then you’re helping the criminals get away.”
We’ve learned, the choppers haven’t been flying much, in part, because the City of Cleveland’s maintenance contract expired. At city hall, the I-Team requested the contract the city had with a company to keep the choppers running. But, it expired last October. So, for months and months, the city has had no one to maintain police helicopters.
Councilman Mike Polensek said, “The command staff, they need to answer. They need to answer to the public. How did they let this happen?”
Polensek has been doing his own investigation into the choppers not flying.
He added, “A helicopter is critical from the standpoint of, not only, protecting our men and women in blue. But, protecting our citizens. And, creating an environment where we can catch the bad guys.”
We’ve learned the Cleveland police helicopters, mostly, have been flying only for special city events and special police operations.
The I-Team has asked for an explanation from police brass and the mayor’s office. Why are crimefighting weapons in the air sitting on the ground with crime raging?
As of late afternoon on Monday, we had not received a response.
We’ve shown you, in the past, short staffing in the Aviation Unit has also kept the police choppers from flying.
We’ve frequently heard officers call out on the radio as they chased suspects, “Chopper up?” So often, we’ve heard a dispatcher say, ‘No.’
We also contacted the company that had the maintenance contract until last year. As for working out a new contract, the owner claims, “It’s in the city’s ballpark. I left the door open for that.”