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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


Why I hate police helicopters


Saturday, November 12, 2005 Posted at 11:10 AM EST

I was puzzled by a comment in a Toronto newspaper recently. "I don't know
many Albertans," a columnist wrote.

See, this is why nobody likes Trawna. We say things like this.

I know many Albertans -- they are easy to know, being friendly types -- and
had a argument with one of them recently. She was saying how Edmonton cops recently conspired to entrap a journalist for daring to criticize them, and
I told her a story, unreported, about how Edmonton cops refused to
investigate a gay-bashing incident that was actually filmed on
closed-circuit TV.

She told me a Toronto story, and suddenly we were fighting over which city
had the worst cops.

I won. I'm not boasting, just stating a fact. I had the Toronto police
union negotiating for higher wages by demonstrating on the street armed
with actual guns. If I had been downtown that day, I would have been
terrified. I would not have done the sensible thing -- lie face down
keeping my hands in view -- because I plan to die standing. It's a pride
thing. But I would have handed over my cash.

As it turned out, there's no need to hand over cash. Toronto just gave it
to them. (I don't blame Toronto's fine mayor, David Miller. After two terms
of Mel Lastman, Mr. Miller sometimes gives me the sensation I've escaped
from Colditz.) Because Torontonians were too scared to write letters to the
editor or the police board, the police got $60-million extra over three
years, although the city won on certain crucial details. More than half of
Toronto's cops earn more than $75,000 a year. They're the most highly paid
in Canada.

I don't care. Money doesn't interest me as much as "the principle of the
thing," a phrase I admit I use mainly to irritate the right wing. Money
isn't a principle, I tell them. Their blood pressure soars.

I laughed when my new bloated property-tax assessment arrived. If my house
were worth that much, I would have sold the place and moved to Barcelona
last night. But I'll pay the bills because I'm a socialist and want the
city's working police stiffs to be unionized and well paid.

But here's the deal. I never want to hear a Torontonian imploding over his
property taxes again. If you're too cowardly to complain about police
daylight robbery and you still think "Toronto's cops are tops," pay your

Next Thursday, Toronto cops, financed by some mysterious organization, will
ask the civilian police board for armed helicopters. They tried it once
before, but enraged citizens awakened in the night like Martin Sheen in
Apocalypse Now ("Whup. Whup. Whup. I'm back in Saigon") told the city to
stop or they would buy rocket launchers.

The police will present a polished, expensive plan for corporations and
individuals to donate cash for EC120B copters, made by the European
Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.

They are hugely popular in the United States, although four have crashed in
the past five years, most recently killing two cops in Sacramento. This
week, the "whirly-birds," as men call them, were grounded by Baltimore
officials troubled by a preliminary investigation suggesting that the
internal turbine blades disintegrated in flight.

The police allies call themselves RASAR or Regional Air Support & Rescue.
They say their purpose is rescuing missing children and wandering
Alzheimer's patients. How odd then that the website's list of news stories
to justify the project is all about black people being shot.

Missing children, if found, are found via rapid alerts, smart cops,
interviews, endless detail work and ground searches aided by citizens. But
I concede that Alzheimer's patients wearing giant horizontal hats that
read, "I have Alzheimer's. Please call my family," would indeed benefit
from flying police.

Aside from the fact that the city already has access to helicopters from
York Region next door, we need police on the ground where most crime
occurs. If a cop car chased your drunken teenager and his cheering
passengers at 3 a.m. (yeah, I've been that passenger) into a telephone
pole, think how much worse it's going to be when the car is shot at from
the air.

If Rosedale residents think they own their own airspace at 4 a.m., they're
wrong. Get active, people. Check out www.rasar.ca and note that the donations for creating Urban Sleep-Deprivation Central are tax-deductible.

You're already paying for its 30-million-candlepower rotating spotlight,
human heat sensors so sensitive they can diagnose my flu, infrared 32X zoom
cameras that can photograph every face in the city and the fact that there
is nothing you can do outdoors now without fear of blackmail. (Elected
officials take bribes in parking garages for a reason.) Anyone in Rosedale
have a mistress? Ever park your car outside her house? Infrared, guys. They
don't need spotlights. Send your donations to RASAR now.

Understated extortion is just one problem with corporations and rich people
buying private police protection. The other problem is what use bad cops
make of the high-tech photos. Even good cops would sense this. Corruption
happens in every institution. Police are just civil servants with guns.

Furthermore, the list of corporations that have donated money to this
dreadful scheme include banks, drugstores, giant American chains and law
firms that already keep records on your money, your prescriptions, your
will and your marriage.

The right photos and videotapes could make a corrupt cop a millionaire, and
the police chief cutting his or her pension isn't scary by comparison.

Tell the mayor what you think. Go to www.stopthechoppers.ca for
information. Show up at the police board meeting. Activism killed the Royal
Ontario Museum's 43-storey finger to the city. Call your councillor.
Promise to boycott corporations that donate to RASAR.

Even depressed Americans are showing their courage. Let's see some here.
Let Edmonton win this time.


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.