CHANGES to police air support have led to a worse service, it has been claimed.
Hampshire officers have raised concerns about coverage in the area via the National Police Air Service, according to Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter.
The force has been served by three helicopters based in other counties since October 2012.
Mr Apter said the Hampshire federation’s calls for the force’s fixed-winged aircraft to be retained went unheeded by the now defunct Hampshire Police Authority and claims the new service in the area is suffering as a result.
He said: ‘What we have noticed is there has bene a reduction in service.
‘Many officers tell me that they don’t always ask for the aircraft now because they know half the time it’s not available and they can’t get it.
‘Officers have lost confidence, or when the helicopter reaches them it can only stay there a really short time because it doesn’t have the fuel capability.’
The NPAS is now trialling the use of a different fixed-winged aircraft.
Mr Apter added: ‘I’m not saying that our old aircraft would have bene the one to have used because it was getting on a bit.
‘To have an effective and professional policing air support system you must have a fixed winged aircraft working side by side with helicopters.’
Assistant Chief Con Chris Shead from Hampshire police said: ‘Hampshire Constabulary is keeping the service it receives from NPAS under review and will continue to do so as the scheme is rolled out nationally by 2015.’
Chief Supt Ian Whitehouse of NPAS said: ‘The Air Support Unit in Hampshire was closed before the area joined NPAS and that was a decision made by the Chief Constable at the time in conjunction with the Hampshire Police Authority. The aircraft currently being trialled with NPAS is not the same type as the one previously deployed in Hampshire.’