Police Eagle helicopters called out more than 16 times a day

Police are using the Eagle helicopters for an average of more than 16 incidents a day, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $2000 an hour.

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Photo: Facebook / Canterbury police

Data supplied to RNZ by police shows their Eagle helicopter unit attended an average of 16.58 incidents every day during the 2018-19 financial year, at a cost of $2313 an hour.

The police Air Support Unit ran three Auckland-based helicopters for that period, which cost about $7.6 million.

It was contracted to fly 3300 hours, which is nine hours of flying each day.

In response to an Official Information request, the police said the unit attended 6053 jobs during the year, and half were for road policing and road safety.

Speaking about the helicopters in February, then-police commissioner Mike Bush said: “It is clear that air support offers benefits to our frontline policing by providing aerial surveillance and monitoring from a safe distance and with a wider picture – enabling an efficient response and resolution.”

A five-week trial of one of the Auckland-based Eagle helcopters in Christchurch ended on 20 March with almost 80 noise complaints.

During the trial the helicopter was sent to 305 jobs and was involved in catching 210 people, police said.

“It’s been a good tool to assist with our front line teams working to halt offenders in their tracks,” said Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price.

Police said they did not collect data showing the age or ethnicity of people arrested after the Eagle unit was used.

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