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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Grounded TPD choppers are in the air again

Darian Bakas
The Tucson Police Department building on Stone Avenue and Cushing Street on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

The Tucson Police Department Air Support Unit has been cleared to fly just in time for school to start back up again. After being grounded for over a week, the Air Support Unit is now ready to operate as of Friday at 5 p.m.

TPD Officer Dan Lucas confirmed the unit, containing three helicopters and one fixed-wing airplane, was grounded due to an audit done by the Airborne Law Enforcement Association. The audit categorized the air unit as high-risk, because of outdated policies written in the unit manual. The audit was voluntary, and was requested by TPD, Lucas said.

Officer Lucas said although the policies in the written manual had not been up to date, the unit was operating under the updated practices. 

It was assumed the Pima County Sheriff’s Department would compensate for the grounded helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, but Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos  says differently.

Sheriff Nanos was first informed that the Sheriff’s Department was expecting assistance by media reports that explained his department would be filling in for the grounded aircraft. 

“No one told me that,” Nanos said. “If we have resources that other departments need because theirs are extended and they call us, we’re going to help.”

Nanos explained the Sheriff’s Department is willing to help assist with any units, whether it is patrol vehicles, canine unit, air unit, and so forth. 

Officer Lucas said that it would be under “extraordinary circumstances” for TPD to make a call to the Sheriff’s Department during this time, but Sheriff Nanos said they would gladly support any department in the case of an emergency. 

Lucas describes the TPD air unit as a very useful supplement control because it allows officers to see a much larger span of ground when needed, but the unit does periodically go down for maintenance and training reasons.

Sheriff Nanos said the previous TPD chief of police Roberto Villaseñor, whose last call to action was the air unit audit, called Nanos to apologize for the lack of communication regarding the compensation of air control. 

Villaseñor has retired from the job, and Christopher Magnus will be filling the position, fully active, as of next week.   

Regarding the period of time the TPD air unit was grounded, Officer Lucas said police work went on as usual. 

Follow Devon Walo on Twitter.

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