Regina City Council is debating whether to carry on with the purchase of a light aircraft for a new police aviation arm. The police service has included up to $547,500 in its $5 million capital budget to buy the plane. The police department noted that Saskatoon has operated a police aircraft since 2005 and it’s been invaluable in finding lost children and elderly citizens as well as helping to apprehend criminals. Saskatoon currently has a Cessna 182T but it’s not clear what Regina is shopping for. At least one Regina councillor says the money would be better spent on the ground helping the homeless
Andrew Stevens said he’s hearing from taxpayers who want more engagement on social issues and less equipment. “There are still concerns generally about whether or not this kind of investment in technology versus people, social workers, mental health supports, addiction supports is worthwhile,” Stevens told the CBC. Police aircraft are typically equipped with a sensor array that allows an onboard operator to actively search the area below or provide surveillance. Stevens said the addition of new gear isn’t what his constituents want to see. “This isn’t so much about the money, so much as it is an approach to policing and public safety that seems to be deviating from other approaches that we’re discussing at the civic level.” Council will vote on the police budget, which includes the plane, Dec. 15.