How we train is how we fight—or more broadly, how we perform under pressure. This also applies to helicopter pilots; how they train versus how they are expected to fly.
The LAPD Air Support Division is the largest municipal airborne law enforcement organization in the U.S. and operates from the LAPD Hooper Heliport. The helicopter crews assist with thousands of arrests, pursuits and crimes in progress each year. The LAPD's airborne law enforcement program began with one helicopter in 1956. Today, the Air Support Division is the largest municipal airborne law enforcement operation in the world and logged more than 18,000 flight hours in 2011. Photos courtesy of the LAPD's Air Support Angel's Foundation.
Law enforcement agencies usually select helicopters for their airborne unit with the mission in mind—lighter, single-engine craft work well for patrol and surveillance, while larger-capacity, twin-engine craft are better suited for search-and-rescue operations. View our gallery of several of the more commonly deployed police helicopters.
Although many agencies are trying cost-cutting alternatives, it's been my experience as a field supervisor that there is no substitute for a helicopter in the air with a well-trained flight crew. Effective coordination between ground and air units is imperative.
The federal government's 1033 program allows law enforcement agencies to acquire special vehicles such as an amphibious LAV, Humvee, MRAP, patrol boat, helicopter or even a landing craft for specialized missions. The agencies acquire the vehicles via the federal Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO). Photos are courtesy of LESO.