UK Government to force collaboration in National Police Air Service
The UK is advancing its plans for a National Police Air Service (NPAS), with the government getting ready to mandate those forces standing in the project's way.
The plans for NPAS represent a radical shake-up in the way British police forces provide air support. Rather than each force having its own helicopter patrolling its region, the new national service will be responsible for the whole of England and Wales and be operated from one central command centre.
While the plan has the approval of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and most of the UK police authorities, several have expressed alarm at the proposals and turned down entry to the project.
In a speech about police transformation made on 26 January, policing minister Nick Herbert said he was concerned that several police authorities were still living in an 'era of police fiefdoms'.
'I am, in exceptional cases of last resort, prepared to mandate where a small minority of authorities or forces create a barrier to significant savings. I intend to make an order requiring the police service to collaborate in the provision of air support,’ Herbert said.
'This order will be made using the new powers brought in by the police reform and social responsibility act. It will require all authorities and forces to collaborate in the provision of air support through a single collaboration agreement for England and Wales.'
One of the authorities unhappy about NPAS was South Yorkshire Police Authority, which is concerned about the lengthened response times from the bases that would serve the county.
ACPO National Police Air Service lead, Chief Constable Alex Marshall. said: 'The policing minister's intentions to make an order requiring the police service to collaborate in the provision of air service supports the National Police Air Service (NPAS) proposals for a truly national, borderless service.
'The NPAS proposal has been widely supported by chief constables and police authorities and the project team and I will continue to work with forces and authorities to develop the national service, with the priority being a strong operational service and effective coverage delivered in the most cost effective way.'
The NPAS plan is reduce the number of aircraft in England and Wales from the current 31 across 29 bases to 23 (plus three spares) across 20 geographically evenly spread bases.
This means that, under the NPAS basing structure, helicopters will be distributed more efficiently, so that at least one aircraft is able to reach 56% of the country’s population within ten minutes, 87% in 15 minutes and 99% within a 35-minute flight time. It is hoped that the scheme will shave around £15 million a year from the current annual air support cost of £70 million.
Source: By Tony Osborne in London , 27 January 2012 - Rotorhub News (www.shephardmedia.com)
Photo: United Kingdom National Police Air Service EC145 (G-MPSB) Helicopter (Photo by Shephard Group)