The new National Police Air Service (NPAS) was launched on Monday October 1, 2012.
The new service will provide more efficient and accessible air support to the police service throughout England and Wales that offers better value for money.
Responding to the findings of a comprehensive review commissioned in 2009, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and individual Police Authorities approved the central recommendation to replace the previous air support system with a national service, regionally coordinated for local delivery.
An ACPO led project team has been supported by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and the Home Office to develop and deliver an implementation plan for the national service.
In difficult financial times, NPAS illustrates how the police service is pro-actively moving towards a national, co-ordinated way of working. The new service is delivered under the first National Collaboration Agreement between policing bodies in England and Wales. Through collaborate working this enables a service to provide capability from the air that maximises the delivery of frontline public services, but with a lower cost than services procured and managed on a local basis.
West Yorkshire Police Authority has agreed for West Yorkshire Police to be the Lead Force for NPAS and this ensures that NPAS is led and owned by the police service and delivers the operational benefits and financial savings that have been presented to individual police bodies.
NPAS will provide a national, borderless service making use of the nearest aircraft meaning that the police service’s response will, in many cases, be enhanced over current provision.
It will provide an air service to 98% of the population of England and Wales within 20 minutes.
There will be 23 strategic locations, with 25 aircraft that provide the operational capability to deliver an enhanced service to the public with an aircraft being available 24 hours a day. Reserve aircraft (three) will also be provided when aircraft are offline for scheduled maintenance to minimise reduction in service.
The service will deliver a more cost effective service balancing the need to save money against the need to ensure the police service has a quickly deployable asset that can be used to tackle crime and protect the public. It is anticipated that NPAS will save up to £15 million a year compared to previous arrangements for police air support when all forces join NPAS.
Longer term, further savings are expected to be achievable through improved operational and organisational efficiencies and moving to an optimised fleet (reducing maintenance and training costs).
NPAS will be implemented in a regional phased approach from October 2012- January 2015.*
ACPO lead for NPAS, Chief Constable Alex Marshall said, “Plans for this improved service have been in the pipeline for three years and I’m delighted that today will mark the first phase of implementation of an improved service for the public of England and Wales that will result in significant financial savings.
“Artificial boundaries have meant that helicopters are restricted to operating within their own force area or consortia. A truly national, borderless service will ensure effective coverage of urban and rural areas. NPAS will provide the deployment of the nearest available aircraft and have reserve aircraft available when aircraft are offline for maintenance.
“I am grateful for the collective hard work undertaken by the ACPO and NPIA project team in the development of the service. In addition the work and cooperation of West Yorkshire Police to deliver the implementation plan and the support shown by the Government has been much appreciated. ”
Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Damian Green said:
“I am very pleased to welcome the launch of the National Police Air Service. It will create the first national, borderless air service for the police, vastly improving current provisions. This is a great example of police working together to improve services for the public while saving money.
“This new police led, government-supported scheme will keep 98 per cent of people in England and Wales 20 minutes or less from police air support and will save up to £15 million a year.
“NPAS shows police forces working together can drive down costs. When Police and Crime Commissioners are elected in November their public mandate will provide a sharp incentive to drive forward even greater efficiencies in policing costs, while still improving public services.”
Cllr Brian Greenslade, The Association of Police Authorities (APA) lead on Air Support said,
“The National Police Air Service has the potential to deliver better public protection at lower cost.
“From catching criminals to ensuring the safety of crowds, helicopters and other means of air support are essential tools in the fight against crime, but they are costly and in some areas used infrequently.
“This programme should ensure that forces retain the right capability to call on air support to protect the public whilst sharing its considerable costs.
“Police authorities have been key partners in getting this programme off the ground – it will be for elected Police and Crime Commissioners to ensure that it delivers the considerable benefits it has promised the public.”