BEL AIR, Md. (AP) — Harford County’s sheriff is discontinuing the department’s aviation program, citing safety issues and the cost.

Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler said in an email Tuesday that deputies assigned to the program part time lacked direct supervision and oversight with aviation specific skills. The aviation unit has one helicopter.

Gahler also said the annual costs associated with the aviation program are projected to be nearly $700,000. The sheriff said the money would be better used for raises for deputies, a street level drug unit, and hiring correctional deputies to staff the vacant Detention Center expansion.

The sheriff’s department’s helicopter was obtained through a U.S. Defense Department program that allows the Secretary of Defense to transfer excess equipment to law enforcement agencies. The aircraft will be returned, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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