Colorado

Dec 22, 2009 11:09 PM by News First 5

Wheels down for Springs police choppers

It's wheels down forever for the Colorado Springs police helicopters.  They held a ceremony today to decommission the two choppers.  City council axed the air unit from next year's city budget.

""This isn't a day to mourn," said Police Chief Richard Myer at the police hangar near the Springs airport.  "It's a day to celebrate and say thank you and congratulations."

The city estimates it costs about $900,000 a year to run the unit. Myers says losing it is a big loss for the community. "We in the police department are frustrated and sad to witness our declining ability to provide the quality of service one should expect of one of America's top 50 cities," he said.

The helicopters, given to the city in a deal with the military, helped in scoping out scenes, searching for suspects and possibly detering crime. Since 1996, the crew has responded to nearly 30-thousand calls for service and they were first on the scene at more than 10-thousand of those calls. 

"We're almost always first on scene so rapid response is probably our bread and butter in law enforcement aviation," said Sgt. Dan Lofgren, who led the air unit.

The hangar, which  is owned by the city, will still be used by other police units.   The officers who worked on air one will move to patrol and CSPD plans to sell the helicopters in 2010.  Chief Meyers hopes to resurrect the program but doesn't know how or when. 

For now, the planes may fly one more time -- New Year's Eve, one of their busiest nights. 

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