SOUTH Yorkshire’s most senior police officer has controversially claimed the county has a ‘better’ helicopter service now that air support is no longer provided in-house.
The force joined the National Police Air Service at the beginning of this month, where police helicopters are shared to save cash.
Former Chief Constable Med Hughes, who retired in 2011, raised concerns about sharing choppers when South Yorkshire was initially only to have access to aircraft based in West Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Humberside.
He said he feared that delays in scrambling helicopters would impact on the force’s ability to fight crime.
But after lengthy negotiations it was agreed that South Yorkshire Police could retain its own helicopter and operate it from Sheffield for 10 hours a day until 2018, with the remaining hours to be serviced by choppers from neighbouring counties.
South Yorkshire’s present Chief Constable, David Crompton, said he is pleased with the new system.
The county’s helicopter has been out of action for the last two months for its annual maintenance programme, and under the previous system South Yorkshire would have simply had no air support cover.
But since the National Police Air Service went live, a helicopter has been loaned to the force.
Chief Constable Crompton said: “Our own helicopter is being serviced and under the old system it would have meant no cover, however being part of NPAS we have been loaned one - we now have cover where we would not have done.
“I can say categorically we now get a better helicopter service than we used to because we now have cover 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
“In the past we had cover available on average for half of the week.”