Topeka, KANSAS (WIBW) -- With the Topeka Police Helicopter program a victim of budget cuts, more pressure is being put on the Kansas Highway Patrol as the sole law enforcement agency that actually has a helicopter in the area.
KHP says they are up to the challenge, and in fact are used to handling all of calls, since the TPD helicopter has been out of service for so long. They say they will not change the way they respond to calls. KHP has an average helicopter response time between 10 and 15 minutes.
Shawnee County Sheriff Richard Barta was disappointed to see the unit go, but gave Police Chief Ron Miller credit for giving the public plenty of reasons why the program was beneficial to law enforcement. Still, he says if the KHP copter is far away, TPD or Sheriff's Deputies could be waiting a long time for air support.
Miller is upset at more than just the helicopter unit going away. He says the combination of vacancy credits, job cuts, the Topeka 501 student resource officer program, the helicopter operating budget, the mechanic's pay and the insurance from the fallen copter take a huge chunk out of the TPD's funds. He said at Tuesday's council meeting those add up to about $2.6 million, almost 10 percent of TPD's budget.
The Friends of Police political action committee came out against the council members who voted to oust the helicopter program.