HOUSTON HPD Chief Charles McClelland says cutting the helicopter hours was a tough decision, but it will not compromise public safety.

I don t believe that the citizens of this city are in any greater danger or police officer safety is compromised by the helicopter cuts. I have not been informed of any suspects who have escaped because we couldn t get a helicopter in the air, Chief McClelland said.

McClelland went on to say he was surprised to hear the uproar about the helicopter cuts especially from some members of city council, because the budget decision was made weeks ago and it was approved by council.

You know I don t control my own budget, McClelland said.

Before the cuts, HPD helicopters flew, on average, 21hours a day. Now they are on a 3-hour-a-day limit.

And KHOU 11 News has learned they are only to be deployed when an officer needs assistance.

For example, they can go up when there is a suspect at large in a specific area, and they can fly for police chases and missing persons.

There are many police agencies across the country that don t even have a helicopter unit, McClelland said.

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