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  1. Abnormal demand resulted in missed calls for police air support. The National Police Aviation Service has begun the process of requesting extra funding from the Home Office amid public safety concerns following recent events. NPAS strategic board chairman Mark Burns-Williamson and West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Dee Collins, submitted a letter to the Home Secretary in March highlighting concerns around future fleet strategy and financing. Since then the country has suffered three terrorist incidents, the Grenfell Tower disaster on June 14 and disorder in Stratford on June 25 – leading NPAS to face ‘unprecedented’ demand with a need to provide continuous response. Helicopters carried personnel and did reconnaissance for up to 13 hours during the Westminster Bridge and Borough Market attacks. However, they can only fly for two to three hours at a time, so each major incident uses five or six of the UK fleet of 19. This means other calls for police air support go unanswered. Details of how many requests for air support had to be turned down during the London attacks were redacted from the meeting minutes. The Home Office failed to respond to March’s letter nor the follow up sent in June which Mr Burns-Williamson described as “unacceptable.” However, discussions have since taken place between Mr Burns-Williamson, CC Collins and Policing Minister Nick Hurd on the demand for police air support in the future. “With these plans in place, we hope to demonstrate both the clearly defined requirement to sustain current levels of service to UK policing along with the return on investment to both government, local and national policing bodies.” Mr Burns-Williamson said. “Consideration is currently being given to alternative models for the future provision of other areas of specialist capability in UK policing. The lessons learned through nationally delivering a 24/7 police air support service will no doubt usefully inform these processes and future direction going forwards.” The annual spend on helicopters has been slashed from £53.5 million in 2012 to £38.5 million now with eight out of 23 police airfields shut and the service centralised. A request has now been made by the Home Office for NPAS to submit a fully costed treasury plan for a new fleet by April 2018. A spokesman for NPAS who described the response and demand as ‘unprecedented’ added: “We need to start considering fleet and funding, clearly there’s a need there with an aging fleet. It’s a bit like cars, you can keep old cars running and they can pass their MOT, aircraft are a little like that – at what point will they stop passing their MOT?” NPCC Police Aviation Lead and Cambridgeshire Chief Constable, Alec Wood Combs, has sent a questionnaire to chiefs and PCCs asking their requirements for air services in the future and what NPAS needs to do differently. The results from the questionnaire will be used to support NPAS’s treasury plan. CC Collins, QPM and Air Operations Certificate Holder for NPAS said: “The National Police Air Service is groundbreaking and I’m very proud to be leading it. The men and women in our organisation seek to deliver support across the country to the best of their ability and in doing so, successfully deliver a professional service to every police force throughout England and Wales. “We have had some challenges in this but nothing that I would not expect as the first ‘pathfinder’ national policing capability. “We now have an opportunity to work with the Home Office and our partners to develop what the future needs for police aviation are and the resultant cost of achieving it. “What I am absolutely certain of is the service that NPAS provides is key to challenging some of the risks that our communities face." A Home Office spokesman said: “We want a modern and flexible air service, which meets the operational needs of forces and represents the best possible value for money for taxpayers. “It is for the police themselves to determine what air support they need and we will consider their plans once they are brought forward.” View on Police Oracle
  2. A police helicopter base serving Cambridgeshire is closing - but residents will now see fixed wing aircraft chasing criminals for the first time. http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/criminals-chased-police-aeroplanes-cambridgeshire-12758419