“Taxpayers Foot Nearly $50 Million Annual Bill for LAPD Helicopters”

Los Angeles Police Department’s air support division, renowned as the nation’s largest with 17 helicopters and over 90 staff, has faced scrutiny following its inaugural audit. This audit, conducted by the L.A. City Controller’s Office, revealed that a significant portion—about 61%—of the helicopters’ flight time is dedicated to low-priority incidents, imposing a nearly $50 million annual expense on L.A. taxpayers.
L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia highlighted inefficiencies in resource utilization, citing instances of impractical use of city funds for transportation and ceremonial purposes, such as passenger shuttle flights for events like the “Chili Fly-In” and golf tournaments.
This comprehensive audit, undertaken over nearly a year, represents the first examination of the LAPD helicopter program since its inception in the 1970s. Mejia emphasized a lack of empirical evidence linking helicopter patrols to crime reduction, challenging the prevailing notion of their effectiveness in combating criminal activities.
The audit unearthed shortcomings in oversight within the air support division, exceeding costs compared to 14 other city departments. Surprisingly, areas routinely monitored by LAPD helicopters don’t consistently correlate with higher crime rates, contrary to expectations.
Further revelations from the audit highlighted LAPD’s air support division disregarding best practices to mitigate noise disturbances and frequently flying below the recommended altitude, raising concerns over pollution.
Dinah Manning, Director of Public Safety at the L.A. City Controller’s Office, expressed alarm over the environmental impact, equating the pollution generated by the helicopter program annually to the emissions produced from driving 19 million miles by car.
In response, LAPD Chief Michel Moore defended the air support division’s pivotal role in preempting criminal incidents by arriving ahead of patrol units and offering critical intelligence. Moore highlighted the division’s contributions in thwarting crimes, particularly residential burglaries, and responding to high-risk situations, reinforcing public safety.
The L.A. City Controller’s Office presented 14 recommendations stemming from the audit, urging the department to revise its performance metrics and objectives.

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