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Pilot in blue suit, or Cop with wings?


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We seem to have a few Police aviators on this forum. Having been one myself for 6 years, I ask the various departments:

What is the primary requirement? To have an experienced pilot, or an experienced Cop?

 

In the state force I worked for, the biggest consideration was to get an experienced pilot, 2000+ hours, who could work in any environment with minimal assistance. He was supported by a crew of two observers, one of whom was of 6 years experience or better, who advised the pilot on the police tactics. It didn't take us pilots long to learn what was needed to do the best police support job.

Apart from that, we all did the initial police academy training, and wore a blue suit as sworn police.

 

We didn't need to know the other police stuff which was not related to aviation - the observers could look after that.

 

And it worked - we had over 30,000 flying hours up before the first accident, and that was with the Chief Pilot who had a squillion hours, and was an aircraft problem anyway.

 

So, how does your department work? And what was the thinking behind it?

:cool:

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I'll tell you what a Compton Ca, PD Sergent told me when I was a young buck, "You can train a cop to be a pilot but you can't train a pilot to be a cop." At the time I thought he was just an arrogant cop. But now, after all these years he was right.

 First of all, it's like EAGEL1 said in the post "Which is the Perferred Police Helo" it depends on your department's mission. For example: The U.S.Customs does a lot of air to air intercepts at night and in bad weather. They need pilots and then they send them to the acedemy in Glynco, Ga. Or the Marryland State Police that covers a wide area and preform EMS. They need pilots with high hours.

 On the other hand, most departments perfer to train their best officers to fly helicopters. We need someone up there covering our backs who knows what bad-guys do. You can't teach that, but you can teach someone how to fly.

 Just being an officer is not enough to be a police pilot. You have to be a real good cop to be assigned to air support. It takes years for a cop to get to the air unit. Years of experience and training. Rarely will you ever see a boot flying a police air unit because the department is looking for someone who knows; this is where the bad-guys run, this is where the bad guys hide, this is where the officers will need help.

 Futhermore, a cop can't work the street his whole career. Yes, there are those who have and they have 2 brass ones. Most officers though, work patrol while they are young then after a few years start looking for other assignements like detective or air support. Air ops is a chance to get the officers off patrol.

 Now I'm about to go out on a limb. Helicopters perform a vital command and control fuction for the department. We need someone who knows what he's seeing. If an officer is involved in a use of force a civilain will look down and say "that officer is beating that man!" Where as if that civilian had ever been in that situtation he would know that the officer was using reasonable force and according to the Penal Code is allowed to use any force necessary to effect an arrest and not be considered the aggressor.

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This debate rages on even in the Law Enforcement community.  I would like to think that I can be a "proffessional pilot" AND a "proffessional law enforcement officer".  I do not know why one is mutually exclusive of the other.  I went to a local commercial helicopter pilot school for my flight training and finished with my commercial.  I went through a transition course in house at my agency and flew with a CFI every flight until I had 500 hours helicopter time.  I took a mountian flying course from a  private, commercial operator and I am now one week away from my CFI check ride, again with a private, commercial operator.  I did not earn my wings any differently from any other pilot or get any short cuts because I was a law enforcement pilot. I was very fortunate that they have paid for all of my instruction.  As for my time on the streets and my experience with the police academy, they are invaulable to the success of our operation.  You have to know the bad guys and be able to think like them to catch them. I am a pilot one day and a flight officer the next.  We do both jobs at our agency.  I feel it gives me the best experience and helps me work better as a pilot.  I KNOW what the other guy needs first hand and it helps with CRM in the busy times.  Many times on a hour or longer pursuit I might not exchange more than 2-3 sentences with my flight officer and I might not see the car 3/4 of the time.  I have been involved in pursuits where there were 2 police helos, 10 news helos. 4 traffic helos and 3 traffic fixed wings all tagging along.  Factor in we do not exactly have "wide open" airspace in Southern CA and you can see how busy it can get.

 

All that to say I like to think I am both a pilot in a blue suit (it's actually green) and a Cop with wings!

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  • 3 months later...

Well, we do things a bit differently here in the UK. All Police pilots here are civilians, with no Police training whatsoever. The minimum qualifications required by the CAA(our FAA) for the job are 1500hrs and a full commercial licence. Obviously with those requirements it's easier and cheaper to employ civilians. The preferred type is usually ex-military, of which probably about 70-80% are, and it is a favourite route for those leaving the Armed Forces.

 

I don't need to be a policeman to be able to do the job. I fly with two experienced observers, and take them to wherever they need to go, positioning the aircraft where they can get the best view of the scene.

 

However, it has to be said that one or two forces are flying with one of the observers as a civilian. Now that is something I don't agree with.

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I hear this argument a lot of times. As far as I am concerned, it is more of the "why is he getting trained in that turbine and all the free time and I am not" whine. Go check out the military. Most police pilots have really paid their dues to get to that spot.

 

Pilots for police departments are professional pilots. And most departments have a better training program then a civilian one. How many civilian programs have you doing touch down auto's all the time. Or about 200 in their initial training program?

 

Not discounting all the very good civilian police pilots, a good cop who trains and knows he is a professional pilot is a great police pilot that is unequalled. I know from experience what is happening and going to happen on the ground, or what the person taking the phone call is thinking, or what the bad guy usually does, or what my observer is thinking and needing me to do from experience. Been there, done that....

 

It is a team effort and like Eagle1 said, my partner and I do not talk much during "hot" situations because we are both doing what is needed when it is needed without telling one another. I also can not tell you how many times I find the guy hiding or running from my position. My observer can not watch everything. That makes a great aero unit.

 

There are accidents. But if you compare both civilian and police, with what the missions are, I do not think that you will find any difference. Of course everyone will have the bad apple here and there also.

 

Keeping my fingers crossed, my department puts on about 8,000+ hours a year. And the only accidents we have had were in training, due to the training we do.

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It is interesting to see the view from either side - those like 24X say that "you can't teach a pilot to be a cop" - what a load of horsefeathers!! Where did YOU learn to be a cop? You started with a minimum of knowledge, and somebody taught you the basics, and then you learned on the job and BECAME a cop. You weren't born with a Lawmaker Gene that only cops have. You learned. The same as qualified pilots learn when they become cops.

 

Similarly, the departments where only experienced pilots are hired will say that a lack of resources prevents them from training their own people. They can't afford to let pilots learn to fly on the job - the pilot has to be on his own from the first day, and can learn the police stuff from the observers.

 

A cop trained to be a pilot will not have over 1000 hours in command on day one - he will still need supervision. But if the department is big enough, they can carry a senior pilot until the Bograt gets his time up.

 

And the comment about a civilian pilot WORKING FOR THE POLICE DEPARTMENT looking at a crime scene and saying "That nasty policeman is beating up an innocent civilian" is cr@p. A civilian pilot is working for the cops because he wants to work for them, and he is on their side. If a pilot was found to be supporting the crooks, he would be unlikely to have a job the next day. Perhaps a civvy pilot working for a TV station might see it differently, but who believes the news anyway? :P

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well made point Eric, its kinda the same in the mustering industry in Australia.  The saying went something like "you can put the pilot in a cowboy but you cant put the cowboy in a pilot"  

Your point applies to both scenarios, people are trainable no matter what their experience.

Cheers

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Helimark said:

 

"It is a team effort and like Eagle1 said, my partner and I do not talk much during "hot" situations because we are both doing what is needed when it is needed without telling one another. I also can not tell you how many times I find the guy hiding or running from my position. My observer can not watch everything. That makes a great aero unit."

 

Well I've also lost count of the number of times I've spotted the bad guy running down the road, or hiding behind the hedge, or the stolen car tucked away in a side street, or picked up messages over the Police radio while listening to air traffic.

:cool:

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Excuse me Eric, I was only repeating what Sergents taught me way back when. And I unfortunately work for an agency with civialians in places they should NOT be. They make stupid policies like, "No wearing black gloves. They scare people." Members of street gangs and prison gangs use the positions to infiltrate departments. Departments have to rely on civilains for support. The civilians are screened and hired the same as officers. But there are some places they don't belong. Command and control and policy postions are a couple. Command and control includes helicopters. Some departments don't have a choice and they need air support anyway they can get it. Otherwise, if you called for air suport would you trust a civilian watching your back? Or would you rather have an officer with your experiance and training?
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Okay MightyGem, I am not saying that civilians can not do the job. It has been proven a number of times. And you have the luxury of having two officers with you. What I am saying is that two trained police officers are better then one trained and one civilian. Basic fact of life. Two experienced IFR pilots in heavy weather is better then one, or one trained and one a pilot but not trained or experienced.

 

It would also be a detriment to what I do as we land in remote area's and do police work. With at least an hour back up, I am sure my partner is very glad I am also an experienced police officer.

 

Anyway it is an argument that will never be answered to everyone's satisfaction.

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24X, you have my sympathies. It must be disheartening to see things going that way. Having whiteants for backup would be intolerable.

 

We are lucky in our area not to have the gang scene - but eventually we will probably get it, we copy all the best features of other countries. :down:

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