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Tulsa Police's Air Support Unit Grounded By Cutbacks

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The doors are closing on the Tulsa Police Department's Air Support. The doors are closing on the Tulsa Police Department's Air Support.
The city's accountants figure grounding the helicopters will save $195,000 dollars this year. The city's accountants figure grounding the helicopters will save $195,000 dollars this year.
The police helicopters have aided in the capture of many criminals, especially after dark. The police helicopters have aided in the capture of many criminals, especially after dark.

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The cutbacks at the Tulsa Police Department include the helicopter unit. Five officers who have spent most of their careers flying - are replacing rookies out on the streets.

Sgt. Ron Moulton isn't losing his job - but is losing his assignment of more than 20 years. He and four other police department pilots go back on ground patrol next week.

The department loses the aerial advantage that has countless times helped officers locate suspects.

The city's accountants figure grounding the helicopters will save $195,000 dollars this year.  Sgt. Moulton believes the actual savings will be much less, and the cost of not having aerial backup for ground officers - will be very high.

"We're what's called a force multiplier," said Sgt. Ron Moulton, Tulsa Police Air Support.  "Two guys in a helicopter can cross the city limits to city limits in about four minutes."

The helicopters almost always fly at night, when criminals can most easily hide from officers on the ground - but are most easily seen from the helicopter.

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"And many times when they put out an armed robbery or burglary, the helicopter will be the first one to show up. If we're in the air, we can get there pretty quickly," Moulton said.

The helicopters were bought with third-penny tax packages approved by voters. The department plans to keep both helicopters - but by disbanding the unit - will have no one available to fly them.

The city will save some on fuel and insurance, but the maintenance for the year is already paid for, according to Sgt Moulton.

No one is sure what will happen next year - and how much it would cost to get Tulsa Police back in the air.

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