Columbus City Council awards $ 900,000 for maintenance of police helicopters
During last year’s protests and riots against racial injustice and the use of force by police, “helicopter” became a dirty word for the Columbus Police Division.
Hundreds of residents and some city officials have started to criticize the cost, noise, intrusiveness and military vibe of the city’s helicopter fleet, with some protesters saying it should be eliminated as part reviewing all expenses of the division.
After: Columbus police helicopters, other equipment at the center of the demilitarizing debate
Despite this, a divided Columbus city council on Monday approved a maintenance contract of nearly $ 900,000 for the division’s five helicopters for another year. The board voted 4-2, in the absence of Chairman Shannon Hardin, to extend the maintenance contract with Helicopter Minit-Men, Inc.
Members Elizabeth Brown and Shayla Favor voted “no”.
Residents complain about Columbus police helicopters
During last year’s council hearings, it was revealed that of 906 written comments submitted by the public about concerns about the Columbus Police Department, 23% were about helicopters – especially their cost.
The new contract amount was between $ 775,000 and $ 1.26 million spent on annual repairs and maintenance of the helicopter fleet over the past three years – a time when the number of helicopters was six, making it one of the largest such police units in the nation. The division reduced the number to five last year.
Inspections and maintenance are essential to crew and public safety, and are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, said George Speaks, deputy director of the city’s public safety department.
“They play a vital role in the safety of our city, as evidenced by a number of factors,” Speaks said. He noted that helicopters made vehicle chases safer by allowing cruisers to back up and often being the first at crime scenes thousands of times a year, giving officers on arrival a warning of this. that was happening.
More controversy after police helicopter pilot says ‘CPD’ during flight
But the helicopter unit became the subject of controversy again last month after the operator of one of the birds spelled out “CPD” during its flight. Some thought it was cool while others not so much.
After: Columbus Police helicopter spells out ‘CPD’ as board members slam Skywriting’s ‘joyride’
After: Police commander apologizes for ‘CPD’ flight which focuses on ‘bigger’ urban issues
Despite the importance of the maintenance contract, the police division did not request that the order transmit “emergency”, which would have required an additional “yes” vote for approval.
The Dispatch reported in February that the council used emergency crossings, requiring five yes votes to pass, 68% of the time last year. Five out of seven votes represent 86% of the board’s supermajority – more unanimity than the two-thirds needed for the US Senate to convict a US president in an impeachment trial.
The council used the emergency pass earlier this year when it tried to cut $ 2.5 million from the police division’s $ 336.8 million budget, but the measure was successfully thwarted by two opposing members. Although they only require a simple majority to pass, non-urgent measures must be “read” at two meetings before the vote and take 30 days after approval before they come into effect.
Security director Ned Pettus said last month he ordered an investigation into a police helicopter pilot who wrote “CPD” on a weekend flight early in the morning at- above a residential area on the East Side.
In other cases on Monday, the council approved an overhaul of the city’s Community Relations Commission, which investigates and helps prosecute discrimination against people in employment, housing and public accommodation, which gives it the ability to directly impose fines of up to $ 5,000 on offenders.
The changes also expand the definition of “sex” as a protected class to include “decisions about the use … of products or services for contraception, sterilization, fertility treatment, pregnancy or its termination. , hormonal therapy, including that which modifies gender expression or affirms gender identity, or medical treatments that affirm gender identity. “
The changes are a “necessary next step towards a fairer city” to include protecting “their own reproductive health decisions,” said Kelley Freeman of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, which works to protect access to health. contraception and abortions. “… People should be supported in their decisions and not punished for them.”
To encourage urban gardening, the council relaxed city codes by allowing “produce stands” of up to 120 square feet to sit on lots less than an acre from April through December. Sales at the stands are limited to two days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. If the package contains “accommodation”, the stand must be dismantled each night and stored inside.
The council also passed a series of ordinances to support the financial empowerment of women and families, using $ 105,864 in funding for LSS 211 Central Ohio and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus to continue to deliver the Financial program. Navigator.
This program provides free financial advice and links to federal, state and local resources. The funding will also support the launch of a new Financial Empowerment Center to support free and one-on-one professional financial advice as a public service to residents.