The Edmonton Police Service is defending its ownership of a plane which was not widely known about until a report was released earlier this week.
Unlike its Air One helicopter, the plane is not advertised on the EPS website or social media and it is reportedly unmarked.
And, unlike the helicopter, it has rarely, if ever, been the subject of public discussions, including council and police commission meetings, since it was purchased in 1993.
“Due to the covert nature of the aircraft, the EPS has only discussed this piece of operational equipment in private (closed meetings) with the Edmonton Police Commission and city council to ensure and maintain both public and officer safety,” EPS spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said in a statement to Global News.
“We are disappointed that the in-camera protocols were not followed.”
At a police commission meeting Thursday, Deputy Chief Kevin Brezinski defended the secrecy insisting “this plane hasn’t been secret, but it has not been publicized for operational reasons”
The deputy chief added the plane is used by the EPS flight operations unit and flown by EPS employees.
He would not say exactly how often it is used only that it “is used quite frequently.”
Brezinski explained it was used in a similar fashion as Air One, to locate missing people, monitor alleged drunk drivers or find suspects.
“We use this plane to target some of the most severe criminals that we have in this city. And to identify some of the methods in which we police some of our hardened criminals, we don’t want to give them the edge in order to identify exactly what we are doing,” said Brezinski.
While the plane is based at the Villeneuve Airport north west of Edmonton, it is used in city limits.
The current plane is a 1980 Cessna 182 fixed-wing aircraft and Sheppard was adamant the aircraft is not used for the transportation of members or goods.
With the plane now 41 years old, the service is in the process of purchasing a new one with updated technology.
That plane is expected to be delivered in late 2022 with the $4.3-million price tag approved by the Edmonton Police Commission.
“The new plane will allow for, it has better, more specialized equipment to assist us in some of our surveillance missions,” Brezinski said.
He added the purchase is a “long-term investment,” with the aircraft expected to last more than three decades.
Police Chief Dale McFee mused the features of the new plane might have to be changed given the details of it have now been made public.
“The new airplane hasn’t been delivered yet so it will have to mean do we have to change plans in how we do things?”
He also raised concerns about public now knowing where the plane is parked.