The Pond parking lot was transformed into a makeshift airport Wednesday as helicopter crews from Southland law enforcement and fire departments flew in to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the city’s police helicopter program.
Since the city’s helicopter detail began in 1970, airborne officers have responded to more than 150,000 calls, helped arrest more than 10,000 felony suspects and were involved in the seizure of more than 30,000 pounds of cocaine and $16 million in drug money. Helicopter crews also fight brush fires using water-scooping “Bambi Buckets,” and are prepared to rescue victims from swift-flowing rivers.
Police Chief Randall Gaston credits the department’s two patrol helicopters with reducing crime in the city and generally making it safer for officers on the ground.
“It’s very dangerous for officers to defend themselves when they’re rounding corners and jumping fences,” Gaston said.
“If [the helicopters] can’t be up,” Gaston said, “we feel the impact.”