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Council cuts ABLE, will lose four officers

February 16, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

Editor's note: This corrects how long the AirBorne Law Enforcement program existed.

COSTA MESA — The City Council dissolved its police helicopter program Tuesday night in a 4-1 vote, saving the city almost $1 million in annual costs, but also costing four officers their jobs.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissented, saying the city should find other money-saving options.

The AirBorne Law Enforcement, or ABLE, program, a shared helicopter program with Newport Beach police that also extended service to Irvine and Santa Ana on occasion, ended after 15 years Tuesday night.

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Costa Mesa has had police helicopters since the 1970s and in 1996, merged with Newport Beach's program to form ABLE. At the time, the move saved each city significant money. Today, ABLE costs Costa Mesa $852,090 annually after being reimbursed by its partners.

Tuesday night's vote will bring significant proceeds to Costa Mesa. ABLE had more than $3 million saved in an equipment replacement fund that can be liquidated, with half of that going to Costa Mesa and half to Newport. With the program gone, the four Costa Mesa officers involved will be folded back into regular department operations, displacing four less senior officers who will have to be laid off, city officials said.

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