Almost ten years ago, the Edmonton Police Service created a Pursuit Review Board in the wake of several high-speed pursuits that ended tragically. One of the recommendations made by the committee, which was chaired by former Chief Wasylyshen, involved the purchase of a police helicopter to help reduce the risks to public safety inherent in any police pursuit.
The Edmonton Police Service presented the recommendation to purchase a police helicopter to the Edmonton Police Commission on two separate occasions – once in 1995 and again in 1998. Although these previous proposals were not approved at the time, community interest in the idea remained strong.
Spotlight on Safety
In November 2000, the Spotlight On Safety (SOS) initiative was launched by the community to raise money for the purchase of a police helicopter for the Edmonton Police Service. Driven by the strength of this grassroots community fundraising initiative, the recommendation to support the acquisition of a police helicopter was brought to the forefront a third time.
The Edmonton Police Commission had conducted its own extensive research in the spring of 1999. Encouraged by the public support and the strong stance taken by the Chief, the Commission was satisfied the Edmonton Police Service completed its proposal with due diligence and due process was observed.
Benefits of a Police Helicopter
On February 28, 2001, the proposal to acquire a police helicopter was brought before the Commission. Benefits for both the community and the Edmonton Police Service were described in detail, and included the following:
- A helicopter is seen as a highly advanced crime fighting tool which, when combined with current resources, offers the potential for increased operational efficiencies. Such efficiencies arise from reduced response times, the safer handling of pursuits, and the ability to "see in the dark" with the aid of infrared technology and a powerful searchlight.
- Reduced response times translate into several advantages: by being first on-scene, airborne officers can help direct ground units arriving at an emergency or in-progress crime, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency by which patrol officers are utilized. By acting as a "resource multiplier," a police helicopter can enhance public safety and officer safety, with the added benefit of increased public confidence in the abilities of the Edmonton Police Service to make an impact on crime in Edmonton.
- Pressing crime issues such as gang violence, armed robberies, and property crimes (such as auto theft) can be addressed in part by the addition of a technologically advanced public safety tool, such as a police helicopter. It can also be of use in handling various emerging crime trends, which are becoming increasingly advanced both in scope and complexity.
After careful and serious consideration of the facts, the Edmonton Police Commission approved the recommendation, conditional upon capital costs being met by community donations and that a third party evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of this public safety tool over the next year.
Launch of Air One
Air One made its public debut at Heritage Days on Sunday August 5, 2001. An estimated 3,600 visitors had the opportunity to get their picture taken with the helicopter and flight crew and over 1,000 people entered the free draw for a "fly-along." Edmontonians further showed their approval of the helicopter by donating close to $9,000 that day to Project SOS.
Air One was airborne and patrolling Edmonton’s streets, just in time for the start of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics.