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Cop chopper to fly soon

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Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill told me late last week the new police helicopter should be in the air in early December.

It first has to be flown here from Fort Erie, Ont. where it’s been outfitted with special equipment for above-the-ground police-work.

That equipment includes infrared cameras, video equipment, a spotlight, radio equipment and GPS mapping devices.

McCaskill said once in Winnipeg the civilian pilots hired to fly it and the officers assigned to ride shotgun need to be trained on how to use the equipment before it’s ready for full-time patrol.

Flights for the media will also be arranged so that Winnipeggers can see the chopper’s bells and whistles up close, McCaskill said.

McCaskill also promised the Eurocopter Canada E-120B Colibri will be quieter than other helicopters, like CJOB’s traffic helicopter that flies over the city during morning after afternoon rush hours.

The chopper is costing the city $3.49 million. The Selinger government is covering the $1.3-million annual cost of operating it.

In preparation, police have also decaled the roofs of many patrol cars with the vehicle’s ID numbers so that the officer in the helicopter can identify them from above.

The $10,000 question is whether it will have an appreciable impact on crime.

With the city’s auto theft rate on the decline by about 70 per cent in the past two years, you’ve got to wonder if there’s been a similar decline in the number of high-speed police chases. If so, that’s already less work for the helicopter.

I’ve asked the police service to provide the numbers to me. I’ll let you know when I know.

The clock(s) are ticking

Tuesday’s throne speech marks a first for legislative assembly decorum.

In the past the speaker has always kept time when MLAs rise to speak to this, that or the other thing.

This session MLAs will be responsible for timing themselves.

Two digital display clocks have been installed in the house, one each on top of the two side doors.

Now MLAs will have to keep one eye on the clock when they speak so that they stay within their allotted time.

The timers work in much the same way a similar clock works at the Winnipeg city council chamber.

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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