Announced today via press release…the Howard County Police Department will discontinue their aviation program on April 30th. Here is the full text of the press release:
Scott L. Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412
Sherry Llewellyn, Howard County Police Department, 410-313-3200
Howard County Police Department Aviation Program To Be Discontinued
County Executive Ball and Police Chief Myers Promote Taxpayer Savings Without Impacting Public Safety
ELLICOTT CITY, MD – As Howard County faces a historic $108 million deficit between projected revenues and requested expenditures in FY2020, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has been reviewing government spending to find solutions. Ball and the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) determined that in order to save taxpayer dollars, without causing any impact to public safety, the HCPD aviation program will be discontinued. It is expected that the program will end on April 30.
“I want to thank every member of the HCPD for their help and cooperation, with special thanks to Chief Myers,” said Ball. “My number one priority is keeping our residents safe. This common-sense change allows us to address our fiscal realities, without sacrificing that safety.”
The recent Spending Affordability Advisory Committee Report outlined the fiscal challenges facing Howard County. “Without changes to revenues or expenditures, current patterns of spending are unsustainable in the long-term,” said the committee report. “Our elected officials have had to make, and must continue to make, tough decisions as they relate to the priorities for funding in our county.”
To that end, Ball recently directed all county departments to identify savings in their budgets. By discontinuing the aviation program, the county will save more than $300K in FY2020, and over the next four years the savings will total nearly $1.8 million. The county also plans to sell the 12-year-old aircraft, which has a current estimated value of approximately $1.5 million.
Public safety remains the top priority for the Ball administration. Howard County will continue to have aviation coverage from other partner agencies, 24 hours a day. The availability of aviation service to officers and the public will not be affected.
In addition, the Howard County Police Department will continue to explore more innovative ways to use technology and enhance services to officers and the public.
“Our aviation unit and its pilots have done great work over the last 20 years,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “Due to budget constraints, it is now time to consider more cost-effective options. But with the resources available to us through partner agencies, this will be a seamless transition that won’t affect the services provided to the public.”
“It is difficult to lose an asset as valuable as our Aviation Unit. A tough fiscal climate forces leaders to make difficult decisions,” said Pfc. Chris Davis, Howard County Police Officers’ Association President. “But we are thankful that County Executive Ball and Chief Myers are committed to our agency’s greatest asset; the men and women in uniform.”
Given the information from the Spending Affordability Advisory Committee Report, it is not a shocker to see some programs reduced or cut. I am guessing this is not the last announcement of this type we will see over the next few months.
I have reached out to Sherry Llewellyn (Howard County Police Department) for additional information…questions I had were:
1. Is the one Bell 407 helicopter the only asset within the program?
2. Will any positions in the HCPD be cut based on this program being discontinued?
No, the four full-time officers will be transferred to patrol.
I am guessing that the statement “Howard County will continue to have aviation coverage from other partner agencies, 24 hours a day. The availability of aviation service to officers and the public will not be affected” that this would be Anne Arundel County
…but I do not know that for sure. I am also interested if it is another county providing that service…will there be a cost to Howard County for that service…something to think about on this topic.
Sherry Llewellyn responded to me on the final question above and stated that it would be Anne Arundel County and other Maryland jurisdictions providing the aviation service at no cost to Howard County. That appears to be a great deal for Howard County.
It is excellent to see support for this from the Howard County Police Officers’ Association. While I am sure that they are not thrilled to see this asset go away…they are supportive of the County Executive and Police Chief in support of the members and mission of the Howard County Police Department.
On a personal note to this article – I want to thank Sherry Llewellyn and Scott Peterson for being super responsive to my questions this afternoon. I greatly appreciate it.