State Watch

Columbus police helicopter use probed after criticism of ‘joyride’

Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration

The Columbus Division of Police is facing criticism after one of its helicopters circled above the city spelling out “CPD” during a patrol flight on Saturday morning.

In between dispatched runs, including responding to a stabbing and an assault in progress, the pilot of the helicopter flew a pattern which, when viewed on a flight tracking application, spelled out “CPD,” according to Columbus Police.

Hours after the flight, Columbus City Council Member Elizabeth Brown expressed her frustration after discovering the helicopter’s path, writing on Twitter that a “joyride” is “NOT essential work.”

“I’m beyond frustrated,” Brown wrote. “Last summer I proposed decreasing our helicopter fleet by one — to save dollars and reinvest in community-based safety strategies. But I was told how essential our current size is, and my measure failed. Let’s be clear: a joyride is is NOT essential work,” she added.

In June 2020, The Columbus Dispatch reported that the city paid $452,000 a year in maintenance costs for the CPD helicopter fleet, and $249,000 for fuel.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday afternoon, the Columbus Division of Police wrote that “even the appearance that officers were not operating within the mission of the Aviation Section is not acceptable.”

The Division did note, however, that no calls for service were missed during the less than 10 minute activity, and no additional fuel was utilized. Additionally, it said the flight was conducted at normal patrol altitude.

The Division added that Commander Robert Sagle, who oversees the Aviation Section, is “reviewing the flight pattern and details of the flight.”

On Monday, Sagle apologized for the flight, especially at a time when “the city has much more important things to focus on,” likely referring to the Columbus Division of Police shooting that left Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black teenager, dead on Tuesday.

“I would first like to apologize to the time and attention this has caused when the city has much more important things to focus on,” Commander Robert Sagle of the Columbus Division of Police said, according to NBC 4. “I also don’t want to take away from the great work achieved by the members of the helicopter unit on a daily basis.”

The flight path has received a flood of criticism online, as the Columbus community mourns the loss of 16-year-old Bryant, who was killed minutes before the jury handed down guilty verdicts in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of the murder of George Floyd.

The officer who shot Bryant, who was identified on Wednesday as Nicholas Reardon, had been hired to work at the Columbus Division of Police in 2019.

Lee J. Carter, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and a gubernatorial candidate, wrote on Twitter that is it “Hard to see how this is anything other than a deliberate middle-finger to the people demanding an end to overpolicing.”

Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun prevention group Moms Demand Action, wrote on Twitter “In the wake of police killings of Black people in Columbus, Ohio, there’s new attention to a “joyride” taken by a police helicopter last week over predominantly Black neighborhoods. It drew out the letters “CPD.” #makhiabryant #ohleg.”

Additionally, a number of people on social media pointed out that the area where the helicopter drew “CPD” over was a predominately Black neighborhood.

Tags Derek Chauvin trial

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