Your comments: How a free Army helicopter cost Newark police more than $2M

By Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for
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on January 12, 2015

Newark's police helicopter, in a hanger at the heliport in Kearny.


The Newark Police Department obtained its own helicopter in 2005, under a U.S. Defense Department program that distributes surplus military equipment to police agencies across the nation for the asking.

Police officials will not say what the ‘free’ 42-year-old Vietnam-era OH-58A Bell Kiowa has cost the department in maintenance and repairs, but an examination by NJ Advance Media of public records shows the city, beset by budget problems that have forced layoffs and cutbacks in police staffing, has spent more than $2 million to refurbish, maintain and operate the aging aircraft, which does not fly all that often.

Readers were split on whether Newark needs, or can afford, its own helicopter. Some said police need high-tech tools to fight the city’s serious crime problems, arguing that despite the expense, a helicopter was well worth the cost. Others said that Newark’s resources could be better utilized elsewhere.

Here’s what and Facebook readers have had to say about the story. Some comments have been edited for clarity. Continue the conversation below in the comments section:

Mike Mondrone Just think of how much a lawsuit for death or injury to a bystander from a police chase would cost... Being conservative, say there could be 1 or 2 of those a year... Add in the cost of repairing/replacing police equipment damaged in those wrecks... Worker's comp costs... Not counting the human toll, that makes it seem a lot more fiscally responsible, doesn't it??

bospherus Clearly, the cost to operate is too high for Newark. That and the less-effective dense city center patrol capabilities and effectiveness make this program a bust. A more effective program for the money would be drones and video surveillance camera systems with gunshot detection and direction sensors. But hey, this helicopter looks cool!

Shawn Mowla So right off the bat half of that cost is pilot salaries, storage and insurance which is inevitable no matter what helicopter they have. The other million is spread over 5 years to restore and maintain it... Even a new bird needs maintenance. So how about you tell us what this thing costs over the price of a new helicopter? Because I bet even after the work they had to put into it it's still cheaper. And yes a city like Newark absolutely needs police helicopters.

billbrennan The City of Newark is large enough to justify the need for a police helicopter. I agree with comments suggesting that it become a county resource available for mutual aid.

Kathy Crosta-Walsh Wasn't there anything more important they could have done with $2 million?? Like feed the homeless?

Darius Godwin-Irvin Helicopters are inherently more expensive than most people realize. Ijs

Rex Hogan Police helicopters are really helpful in finding criminals during a pursuit. Newark is known more for it's crime than for any other thing on Earth. I have no problem with this investment.

NJ Guy There is no doubt that a police helicopter in Newark can terminate carjacking car chases in Newark, but still lead to the apprehension of the suspects. This will make life safer for people on the roadways and possibly save motorists' and pedestrians' lives. However, Newark is a relatively small city that probably doesn't have the resources or the economies of scale that a larger city, say New York City, has that would make the benefits of an aviation unit outweigh its costs.

Alicia Matthews Helicopters in big cities help in pursuits. The aerial view is much different on the ground. Newark wants to become the city it once was it needs all the help it can get. If those choppers help save one life isn't it worth it.

Too Much Government! Although there are pros and cons to police / municipalities having aircraft, the cons certainly surpass any benefits that can be achieved. Expense is the Number 1 con. Even the Port Authority, with it's massive budget, shut down their helicopter operations division years ago..... due to excessive cost.

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