TPD air support unit could return to skies soon

TPD air support unit could return to skies soon

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson police officials released a 50-page audit that led to the grounding of the entire air support unit this week.

The air support unit consists of three helicopters and a plane that are used to support patrol officers on the streets during calls.

While the audit showed the level of risk for the air support unit's overall operation was classified as high, TPD officials stressed the air unit had an "impeccable safety record."

While officials worked to address the issues highlighted within the audit, Assistant Chief Mark Timpf said he expected their helicopters to be airborne again within two to three weeks.

The most glaring points in the audit consisted of personality issues within staff members creating a "toxic operational culture that goes beyond simple personality conflicts between individuals."

Police said that was being addressed, and an internal investigation involving a staff member was currently underway, although they declined to disclose farther details about the investigation until it was completed.

The audit stated the air support unit was at "high risk" and instant action needed to be taken in several areas. Police said most of the safety recommendations were minor and things they had addressed immediately. Many of the recommendations were also things they had already been doing, but their written policies just did not reflect that

Police said they were working to update their written policies to match their operational guidelines. Things like operational flight checks, weather conditions for flying, and identifying hazards were specifically mentioned in the audit.

Police said they had talked to the Pima County Sheriff's Office and Department of Public Safety to use their air units, while theirs was grounded.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29 Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos expressed surprise when he heard about the situation and said his office had not been contacted. Timpf said they have talked to county officials, and there appeared to be a break in communications, but that had been addressed.

"We would use the sheriff's department or DPS in extraordinary circumstances. If we had something that really needed air assets we would have those. They have graciously agreed to provide those services to us," Timpf said.

The department had also put a safety committee together to address ongoing issues.

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