Helicopter cover for Cumbria police not affordable to the force

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16 March 2017 8:14PM

THE price tag attached to providing a police helicopter in Cumbria is unaffordable for the county's force - even though it would keep officers and the public safer, a union leader claims.

Martin Plummer, chairman of the Police Federation Cumbria, said Cumbria Constabulary operates without the back up of a police helicopter because the cost is too high.

His comments come just days before neighbouring Lancashire Police's dedicated air site at Warton, near Preston, is due to close due to nationwide cuts to the National Police Air Service budget.

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In an interview with the Evening Mail, Mr Plummer said: "We would love for our officers to be able to deploy aerial cover when they need it - the benefits would be huge for policing and the public.

"But a Gucci service like that comes with a luxury price tag and there simply isn't the money within the budget to pay for it.

"While we have had the option of mutual support from forces that do have a helicopter, our use of it in the last few years in Cumbria has been virtually non-existent because of the cost that comes with it."

Police helicopters can offer a range of tactical benefits and enhanced services that are not available to police officers on the ground.

These include heat detectors to locate criminals as they attempt to evade capture as well as covering remote areas quickly in the search for missing or vulnerable people.

A helicopter unit can also replace a police car in a high speed pursuit and is considered a safer option in many circumstances.

Some 10 bases operated by the National Police Air Service are to close this month to take account of a 14 per cent cut to its annual funding from the government.

Some helicopters will also be replaced with aeroplanes that are cheaper to run and maintain.

But the move is unlikely to affect Cumbria, Mr Plummer stated, as available funds to call a police helicopter into the county has not been available for some time.

He said: "The changes to the police air service won't affect Cumbria because it's a luxury we already can't afford.

"Given the geography and topography of Cumbria, and the fact that our arterial roads network can become blocked with traffic or accidents making travel by roads difficult, the benefits of an aerial unit would be huge.

"We would like to see our officers provided with anything that enhances their armoury and aerial cover would be a great benefit but this is offset by cost and it's not affordable for a small force like Cumbria."

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