LEXINGTON, KY. (FOX 56) — The Lexington Police Department is making some noise with it’s helicopters. But the community rarely complains about the sound.
As a team of eight, which includes four pilots and four tactical flight officers, as well as two helicopters, the Air Support Unit’s job is not just about chasing bad guys. Officers said their main task is to keep the community safe.
When there is a lost child, or someone with dementia goes missing, the unit uses its unique point of view to find them. When a major event happens, like a concert or a festival, their main mission is to help alleviate traffic.
So while waking up at 2 a.m. to a helicopter is not ideal, the benefits of the officer’s operations are well worth it.
Officer Bige Towery, tactical flight officer, said, “Even as a citizen of Lexington, I have two daughters that are of driving age, so I feel good that we have resources available for the community.”
The aircrafts flew more than 50 missions in June, and many times using a helicopter is safer than driving a police car, like during a vehicle pursuit or traveling to isolated areas.
Police helicopters are much different than commercial choppers. In fact, the equipment inside is worth more than the aircraft itself. Through federal and state grants, the force recently added a GPS tactical mapping system, which allows officers to more accurately describe locations while in the air.
The unit also just bought a new search light. Once installed, it’ll move at the same time as the thermal camera, which allows them to see in the dark. Only one helicopter has thermal technology at this point, but the department is working toward getting a second system soon.
“It’s state-of-the-art equipment that’s on board and that helps us do our job,” said Pat Murray, pilot and air support coordinator, “Without that equipment, we would not be successful in what we do.”
The only expenses for the police department are fuel and maintenance. Officers said it’s federal programs, not taxpayer dollars, that fund those expenses.