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Helicopters in Law Enforcement

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Submitted By rjkovachjr
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Throughout history, police departments have utilized various technological advancements in an effort to improve their ability to fight crime and maintain public safety. These technological advancements have enhanced a variety of areas in policing, including communication and transportation. Helicopters have assisted police activities by providing law enforcement presence in the air. Helicopters have served an important role in modifying and improving police operations, but questions remain about the priority of this new form of vehicle technology in law enforcement. This is particularly true regarding the use of the helicopter because they are expensive to operate.
There are many factors that a department should consider when deciding whether or not helicopters are worth the expense. A brief description of the history of the use of helicopters in policing will be given. Various uses of the helicopter in policing, the costs of using helicopters, and helicopter technology fighting crime will be discussed.
Historical Background of Helicopters
New York and Los Angeles were the first police departments to create aviation units. These units used fixed wing aircraft to serve rescue tasks with minimal involvement in daily patrol activities (Riley, 1997). The first uses of helicopters occurred in New York City during the 1940s. Their uses included rescuing civilians trapped in ice, spotting fires, following cars being pursued, and finding cars "buried in the swamps of Brooklyn and Queens" (Hoffman, 1996: 26). The helicopter was used in lieu of a fixed-wing plane because of its ability to maneuver in the sky.
The utility and success of the helicopter became known and its use spread from New York to other agencies. In 1956, Los Angeles County bought its first helicopter and mainly used it to assist in traffic enforcement on the city's freeways (Hoffman, 1996). Its use was…...

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