South Yorkshire Police will join the National Police Air Service on Monday - but it will still retain its own helicopter for 10 hours a day.
Under the new arrangement, the current South Yorkshire Police helicopter will remain at its base in Sheffield and provide cover for the county during a ten-hour peak period, 365 days a year. However the aircraft and its staff will be managed by NPAS. During the remaining 14 hours each day, the county will be served by aircraft from neighbouring NPAS bases in West Yorkshire, Humberside and Derbyshire.
Senior officers say the arrangement will see the county receive a more robust service, with the level of support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, being improved.
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, added: “We have fought to maintain air support based in South Yorkshire. I believe air support is a critical crime-fighting tool and will do my best to ensure it continues to deliver for the community of South Yorkshire.”
In April, 2012, the Home Office ordered that future police air support would be provided by a national service, sparking much deliberation in South Yorkshire amid fears that the new arrangements would result in a reduced air support service for the county.
Throughout the negotiations regarding the Force’s Air Operations Unit joining NPAS, the former South Yorkshire Police Authority always maintained that it would oppose any proposals which would see a significant reduction in service to the people of South Yorkshire. The Force worked closely with the police authority during negotiations for a base to remain in Sheffield.
NPAS is intended to provide a national, borderless service making use of the nearest aircraft. It is a national service, regionally coordinated for local need.
It will provide an air service to 98 per cent of the population of England and Wales within 20 minutes.
It is anticipated that NPAS will save up to £15 million a year compared to the cost of previous arrangements for police air support when all forces have joined.