The Dallas Council agreed Wednesday to sell a police helicopter it bought just four years ago as an important addition to the city's crime-fighting fleet.
The aircraft was one of three purchased at the same time in 2007 to entirely replace an old fleet that had big maintenance problems.
The Bell 407 is much larger than the others and has the capability of transporting an entire SWAT team in an emergency.
"We initially anticipated the need for a transport helicopter that never really played out," Dallas Police Chief David Brown said.
He told council members Wednesday that helicopter is much more expensive to operate. Brown also said the money gained from selling it would help Dallas keep employees on the job.
"And I think the bottom line is, if it saves jobs and keeps officers on the street, we're for it," helicopter unit commander Lt. David Graham said.
But several council members said were concerned about public safety after so recently being told that three helicopters were necessary.
Councilman Jerry Allen said Dallas buys many expensive pieces of emergency equipment that sometimes sit idle.
"It's not very valuable when it's idle, but when it's needed, it becomes extremely valuable," he said.
"Once it's gone, it's gone, and we bought it because we needed it," Councilwoman Sandy Grayson said.
"I really don’t think the only choice we have to save money is between selling this helicopter or letting officers go," she said. "I really don't. There's always other options."
Given the city's current financial outlook, Councilman Dwaine Caraway said it would be extremely difficult to find the money to buy another helicopter in the future.
"I need to be convinced that 15 years from now, there's a plan, would be a plan, should we need one," he said.
Brown said Dallas could lease a third helicopter if needed and other agencies in the region have similar equipment.
"The regional approach to leveraging law enforcement resources is what law enforcement across the country is doing because it's much more efficient," he said.
The council voted to accept the highest bid of $1.47 million for the helicopter received at a June 28 auction.
The city paid $1.66 million in 2007. City equipment added to the helicopter after it was purchased has been removed.