Governor To Possibly Downsize Oklahoma Highway Patrol's Aviation Unit
GROVE, Oklahoma - We're hearing from two Oklahoma Sheriffs just days after they learned about plans to possibly downsize the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's Aviation Division.
The Secretary of Public Safety said right now, aircraft that can’t fly are being sold. The remaining aircraft are being evaluated. But two Sheriffs said no matter what the final decision is, they want to see vital aircraft stay in Grove.
Two Sheriffs said having a plane and a helicopter ready at a moments notice in Grove is an asset not only to their departments but to surrounding counties.
"We found a downed aircraft we've located felony suspects we've recovered stolen property we would have never ever, ever done it had it been for the air support," said Sheriff Harlan Moore of Delaware County.
Right now, OHP has 15 aircraft including planes and helicopters. Secretary of Public Safety Chip Keating says the five that are not airworthy and the 2 not used for law enforcement are being sold.
That leaves 8. The decision on what to do with those aircraft is still up in the air.
"We are putting together a comprehensive plan between fixed wing and Helo and strategic geographic location of what this will look like," said Secretary Chip Keating, the Secretary of Public Safety for the State of Oklahoma.
Secretary Keating adamantly denies any shutdown of the whole Aviation Division and in a letter to Hughes County Sheriff Marcia Maxwell, said Governor Stitt's "Goal is to better allocate the departments resources and put more Trooper's on Oklahoma's roads."
Both Sheriffs said they are fine with getting rid of aircraft that don't work but stress any type of downsizing would be detrimental.
"I don't know why we would want to go backward with asset availability," said Sheriff Harlan Moore of Delaware County.
And are both Sheriffs are asking the Governor to keep all the aircraft that can fly in service including the aircraft in Grove.
"Having that resource available at the spare of a moment because you never know when a true emergency is going to exist," said Sheriff Jeremy Floyd of Ottawa County.
Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Commissioner Rusty Rhoades said, last year the OHP Aviation Division assisted with 35 specific agency requests for Sheriff's Offices and assisted with 8 Municipal requests.