David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

Thursday, October 28, 2010

National Police Air Service Announced

A new National Police Air Service (NPAS) could be up and running within the next 18 months if police authorities rubber stamp the plans, ACPO has confirmed today.

Under a radical blueprint, the current air support cover supplied by individual forces would be amalgamated and would operate across force borders throughout the UK.

The current 29 bases and 33 aircraft would be reduced by around a third – with 20 bases and 23 aircraft operational and a further three held back as spares.

The plans would see Sussex and Surrey reducing to a single aircraft and relocating to a new base at Dunsfold, while cover in Merseyside, South Yorkshire and Cambridge would be withdrawn to allow other bases in the area to provide the coverage.

Hampshire Chief Alex Marshall – ACPO Lead for the NPIAS – told PoliceOracle.com that the new structure would be the first national collaboration venture of its type.

He believed the new model would save in the region of £15 million – 23 per cent – compared with the status quo and would introduce greater flexibility and efficiency.

CC Marshall added: “While the current service is capable of doing its day job, artificial boundaries have meant that helicopters are restricted to operating in their own force area.

“A national service will ensure effective coverage of both urban and rural areas. We expect to be able to reach 97 per cent of the population within 20 minutes, giving 24-hour support coverage with the roll out beginning in 2012.”

Under the new structure, the NPIA would take ownership of the aircraft, which would later be passed to the new National Crime Agency when it is formed.

Calls for assistance would be made through a local air support contact, with British Transport Police given responsibility for the scrambling and despatch of aircraft.

“We felt that this would be appropriate as BTP is already a national Police Force,” said CC Marshall. “Clearly with the reductions in airframes, we are going to have fewer pilots and fewer of our people involved. Police officers will be redeployed and we may see a small number of redundancies among staff.”

CC Marshall said that he would now be seeking approval for the move from police authorities. If given the green light, the NPAS could be operating a shadow service – with forces operating their own air support assets but as if they were working nationally – next year.

DCC Nick Gargan, acting Chief Executive of the NPIA, shared the enthusiasm for the introduction of the new initiative. He said: “This will be a truly national policing service that will be at the heart of improving public safety.

“The NPIA has played a substantial role in helping to set up the new service, which will bring operational efficiencies and allow for the introduction of innovative contracts that offer better value for money for the service and the taxpayer.”

Article courtesy of www.policeoracle.com

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