This twin-engine police helicopter experienced “tail rotor failure in the hover whilst observing the scene below” in the Whitchurch neighbourhood of Cardiff, South Wales, in April 2000. official report
Nov. 17, 2005
Police Services Board Meeting Report
Thank you to everyone who helped make today such a show of citizen engagement!
Here is an update on the helicopter debate at the Police Services Board today:
* We had 12 deputations against the RASAR helicopter proposal. Three organizations were represented: The Law Union of Ontario, NoiseWatch and Stop the Choppers. U of T Criminologist Mariana Valverde submitted a deputation as well. The ones from private citizens were excellent too. Most deputations focused on private funding, noise, surveillance and the lack of acountability and credibility of RASAR. We hope to put all the available deputations on our website as soon as possible.
* Ward 16 (Eglinton-Lawrence) City Councillor Karen Stintz gave a deputation in full support of the RASAR proposal.
* The Mayor did not attend the helicopter debate. He was interviewed afterwards
by the media, and stated: “From my perspective, the chopper's a distraction.
What we need to do is get police officers on the streets in neighbourhoods.
That's what produces safety in the City of Toronto...If we
are going to have a helicopter that should be something that's publicly owned and run by the public. I don't support putting public resources into a helicopter. I never have, as you know.”
* Chief Bill Blair was interviewed before the Board meeting by CBC TV stating, “I think a helicopter can be very valuable...” He stated that he would be listening to the deputations.
* Several Board members questioned RASAR's 15-minute presentation. Their questioning clarified that under the RASAR proposal, ownership and control of the helicopters would remain with RASAR, making it a full P3 (public-private partnership) program. One of the Board members also questioned the crime statistics from Calgary used in the RASAR presentation, pointing out that they mentioned only those crimes whose rates happened to fall since the introduction of the helicopter program there, even though they didn't seem to be the most relevant to air bourne policing.
* The RASAR item was referred by Chair Alok Mukherjee back to the Chief of Police. The Chief is expected to prepare a report on RASAR and it will likely be submitted in three months to the Board.
* We got some fairly good media coverage, with reports on CBC Radio Metro
Morning, and Radio local news, and a good piece on the CBC 6:30 local TV
* CFRB did a feature with Stop the Choppers on their newscast at 12 noon
* 680 News ran a number of items I believe
– any other news feedback is appreciated.
ACTIONS: The board has hopefully received all the emails you have submitted. But we are not sure if Chief Bill Blair has received them. Please write to him. It may be that mailed or faxed letters are more effective. Whatever method you use, it is always best to phone to make sure the letter has been received by the Chief.
* Chief Bill Blair:
* Please keep sending new letters to the Chair of the Police Services Board
via the Board's email and fax:
The Board email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Their fax number is 416-808-8082.
* Copy Mayor David Miller at 416-397-2489
* Write your City Councillor. This link will provide your councillor's email:
Please copy all new communication to Stop the Choppers at email@example.com
We encourage you to give us feedback on today's events. What can we do differently? How can we engage all the great new people who have come forward to write and speak out this week? What should the campaign do next?
Please send us deputations to be placed on our website.
Thank you once again for working for a livable city, free of police helicopters.
Stop the Choppers
Toronto Police Services Board
40 College Street, Toronto, ON, M5G 2J3
TEL (416) 808-8080
FAX (416) 808-8082
Stop the Choppers
September 21st, 2005
To the Members of the Toronto Police Services Board,
Our organization is contacting the Toronto Police Services Board regarding the issue of a privately funded police helicopter for the City of Toronto.
Regional Air Support & Rescue (www.rasar.ca), a charitable organization based in Ontario, is aggressively promoting a helicopter for policing in Toronto. This helicopter would be funded by private donations, likely through corporate and individual donors. Stop the Choppers, a broad-based Toronto citizens' group, has opposed a police helicopter in the City of Toronto since the beginning of the City's six-month helicopter pilot project over four years ago.
Our main concerns include noise, private funding and the helicopter's lack of effectiveness as a policing tool. Studies of police helicopters show they have very limited use.
A private police helicopter would set a dangerous precedent in the City of Toronto. It is very problematic for the police to be funded by corporations and wealthy individuals through a charitable organization. The police need civilian oversight. If we have corporations and the wealthy funding a certain policing tool, then we give up our democratic control. How can we be sure that private donors will not receive special treatment from the police? Down the road, will the donors want to foist the financial burden of a costly helicopter unit onto the City of Toronto?
Some great American cities have chosen to have no helicopters at all. Some, like Chicago, have had helicopters and found they caused more problems than they were worth, and have stopped using them. The biggest concern raised repeatedly with police helicopters is noise.
The City Auditor's 2001 study of the police helicopter pilot project shows the helicopter performed poorly. The helicopter attended less than one per cent of high priority calls. The auditor also found the helicopter was of no use in high-speed car chases – which former Chief Fantino claimed it would be very useful for. Hundreds of citizens across Toronto called to complain about the helicopter during the six-month pilot project. Their distress was often due to nighttime noise disturbance. The Toronto Board of Health's 2000 Noise and Health report shows noise is a serious health issue in this City. We know that noise problems double every ten years in this city. A police helicopter – even a so-called “quieter” model – would seriously add to this noise burden.
The helicopter would often be used at night. It would hover over residential neighbourhoods. The 1999 U.S. National Resource Defence Council's study Needless Noise points out that helicopters hovering over residential neighbourhoods pose a health hazard, resulting in headaches, sleep disruption, hypertension, compromised heath and digestive functions.
We DO have access to helicopters for emergency search and rescue. We have borrowed a helicopter from the RCMP, York police, Durham police and the Ontario Provincial Police. This is a proven method that works! Two other major Canadian cities – Vancouver and Montreal – successfully borrow helicopters when needed.
The helicopter is directly opposed to community policing. It removes officers from neighbourhoods, and increases tensions between police and vulnerable communities through unwanted surveillance. Chief Bill Blair is committed to having officers on the ground working with communities, and so are we. We need feet on the street, not eyes in the sky.
A 2001 Environics poll shows a vast majority of people want resources spent on building a healthy, livable city, not on a police helicopter.
In closing, we ask that you commit to keeping Toronto free of police helicopters. We instead urge you to work towards more community policing and crime prevention to make Toronto a safe and livable city.
We look forward to your timely response on this important matter.
Sincerely, Helen Armstrong
for Stop the Choppers
Cc: Chief Bill Blair
“The police helicopter seems designed as an in-your-face sign of intimidation.” – John Sewell, Eye
A police helicopter in Nassau County,
New York demonstrating a low altitude pursuit.