Winnipeg Police unveil new helicopter program

December 10, 2010
DEC 07 2010 WINNIPEG - Police debuted their newest crime-fighting tool Monday amid much fanfare and political heft. However, don't expect to see the long-awaited helicopter swooping above your neighbourhood any time soon.

DEC 07 2010

WINNIPEG - Police debuted their newest crime-fighting tool Monday amid much fanfare and political heft. However, don't expect to see the long-awaited helicopter swooping above your neighbourhood any time soon.

Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill said the new chopper, which arrived in Winnipeg Sunday, won't be fully operational for about a month.

"It feels great, it really does," said McCaskill, who has championed the helicopter as a way of amplifying the effectiveness of the police force. Surveillance data from the chopper in high-stress situations such as car chases and fires will be sent back to ground crews dealing with the situation on the street, he said.

"Today is a great day for Winnipeg because it's giving us a tool that we hadn't had before. It's going to give us more capability as a police service, so I think it's a great day," McCaskill said.

Politicians and police officers, thrilled about the chopper's unveiling, were on hand in a cavernous hangar at 17 Wing for a first look at the $3.5-million aircraft.

The all-black helicopter with white detailing took to the snowy skies after a press conference heralding its arrival.

McCaskill said the new chopper won't be out patrolling regularly until training finishes for the officers who will run it. He didn't provide an exact date the chopper would be operational, but said it would take "about a month."

"Don't hold me to it. The experts are going to decide that. They're doing all the training and when they're ready to go, it'll be ready to go. But we're thinking about a month," he said.

The chopper was initially supposed to debut in October.

It's an EC120B made by Eurocopter Canada Ltd. It will operate from the military base, an environment McCaskill said comes with built-in security.

The police chief stood with Mayor Sam Katz, Premier Greg Selinger and city council protection committee chairman Gord Steeves (St. Vital) for the announcement. Also present was Col. Yvan Boilard, commander of 17 Wing Winnipeg, and a Eurocopter company official.

All said the chopper was a welcome arrival.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this will be a phenomenal asset to fight crime, and hopefully preventing crime," Katz said.

The helicopter has details and colours similar to the recent redesign of the WPS cruiser, which debuted in July with vintage black-and-white colour styling. The chopper's call letters read C-Gaol, or "SEE JAIL," on its side.

"This announcement is about ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of Winnipeg," said Selinger, who called the helicopter an "additional tool" for police surveillance and pursuits.

A civilian helicopter pilot and tactical flight officer (TFO) will crew the aircraft while it's patrolling aloft.

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