IACP Leadership in Police Aviation Award
The IACP Leadership in Police Aviation Award recognizes public safety individuals and agencies that exemplify excellence in airborne law enforcement operations for both manned and unmanned aircraft operations in the law enforcement community
This award emphasizes initiatives that enhance general safety operations, accident prevention programs, and the efficiency and effectiveness of airborne law enforcement.
For further information, contact awards@theIACP.org.
Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Florida
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office began standalone flight operations in July of 2019 utilizing two Airbus H125 helicopters. Prior to this, flight operations were combined with medical operations utilizing three helicopters. The unit now consists of six pilots, six tactical flight officers, and three aircraft technicians. The aircrew utilizes tactics and technology while enhancing the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of law enforcement personnel on the ground.
The unit performs many diversified missions including criminal search and apprehensions, search for missing/endangered persons, locating and recovering stolen vehicles, and search and rescue operations in the Everglades and offshore. The unit is also responsible for the deployment and extraction of the SWAT Team, K-9 Unit and Dive Rescue Team personnel.
By the end of the first year of operations, it was evident that the program was a success. An analysis of flight operations revealed a 20.5% increase in hours flown despite one less helicopter. The missions flown increased by 44.2%, arrests increased by 112%, and stolen vehicle recoveries had increased by 222%. These statistics attribute to the success of this program.
Glen Fishbook, Staff Sergeant & Roger Thomson, Special Constable
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
In 2018, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took possession of a new Airbus H145 helicopter, as part of the “E” Division Air Services fleet. This acquisition marked a highly significant day in the history of the RCMP as it was the first H145 in Canada, and only the second in North America in “law enforcement configuration.” The arrival offered a significant opportunity for the RCMP to develop new capabilities and enhance service delivery with increased safety margins. Staff Sergeant Glenn Fishbook and Special Constable Roger Thomson displayed their dedication in their initiative to build this capacity for the rest of Canada’s federal police force. The RCMP now has nine helicopters and training is now available for pilots, tactical flight officers, and ERT Operators across Canada. The development and acquisition of the Helicopter External Transport System (HETS), a Hoist Program and a new rotary wing platform (H145), added a capability that the RCMP was lacking and has significantly changed the RCMP Air Services program and the ability for the Emergency Response Team to conduct extractions.
United States Drug Enforcement Administration
Special Agent Michael Willet has been employed by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) since March 1998 and is currently assigned to the Little Rock District Office (LRDO). He has made significant contributions to Special Agents (SAs) and Task Force Officers (TFOs) because of his ability to fly, anticipate actions from targets, and target vehicles during aerial surveillance. Special Agent Willet is directly responsible for the seizure of hundreds of pounds of illicit narcotics, millions of dollars in drug proceeds, and hundreds of guns. Despite his busy schedule, SA Willet is still responsive to installing covert and pole cameras, providing technical operational support, as well as in-car and mobile radio and cell phone support across 75 countries in the state of Arkansas.
SA Willet’s duties as a DEA pilot have enhanced the way the New Orleans Field Division conducts surveillance and enforcement missions throughout the state of Arkansas. SA Willet’s leadership among junior agents and TFOs is commendable and undeniable. Over the last 11 years flying missions for DEA, SA willet has trained hundreds of spotters to operate complex and technical aircraft cameras and video equipment. SA Willet always takes the time to mentor, train, and equip SAs and TFOs on aircraft fundamentals and related aircraft accessories.
Texas Department of Public Safety
The Texas Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Aircraft Operations Division (AOD) exemplifies excellence and is a leader in airborne law enforcement practices. AOD performs near around the clock flight operations out of 12 bases across the State of Texas, supporting over 800 state, federal, and local law enforcement partners. AOD operates 24 manned aircraft and over 170 unmanned aerial systems (UAS), outfitted with state-of-the-art police mission packages covering over 268,597 square miles in Texas. AOD has joined forces with large agencies to augment their efforts in addition to its normal customer base, targeting inner-city violent crime. In 2020, AOD assisted state and federal agencies with the COVID-19 pandemic by rapidly transporting new and used COVID-19 test kits all over the state, especially to the rural, less densely populated areas. AOD had helicopters and fixed-wing assets dispatched to last minute calls to nursing homes, food processing facilities, and small communities where COVID-19 outbreaks were believed to occur. DPS AOD has continued to support the fight against COVID-19 by quickly transporting vaccines from Texas' central receiving point to Austin to the rest of the state.
Chang Young Choi
Provincial Police, Korean National Police Agency
The Republic of Korea has a very high public interest in the investigation and search for missing persons, which is recognized as an essential police task. In 2018, Chang Young Choi gathered police officers interested in drones to create a research group and organized the first non-permanent drone team in Korea. This was the first time that a drone was adopted as standard police equipment, thus there were many trials and errors. With constant studies and research, great efforts were made to improve the use of drones as police equipment. As the number of drones used to search for missing persons increased, a Drone-centric Missing Person Search System was created. This system is being studied by various organizations for other areas of application and the military has benchmarked this system for missing persons in the mountains as well as finding enemies or targets in rugged terrain. The goal of the drone research group and police drone team is to become the foundation for developing technology to secure the safety of citizens.
Chula Vista, California, Police Department
Chula Vista Police Department’s Drone as a First Responder (DFR) program is a remote piloting, geo-fencing, and pro-active use of drones to respond to emergencies. Innovatively, the remote-operated drones are deployed from fixed locations to proactively respond to calls for service with the goal of arriving on scene prior to patrol units and live-streaming video of the incident. The implementation of the DFR program has enhanced aviation safety and police aviation operation safety in Chula Vista. Upon successful implementation, the department has established a public dashboard that shows drone related activity to demonstrate that police drone operations are a resource for good and helps keep communities safe. Through this innovative and transparent drone program, agency leaders have taken the initiative to collaborate with other agencies to help establish robust drone aviation programs of their own.
Special Agent in Charge
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
In 2016, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Gary W. Hill joined the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Aviation Division, overseeing a fleet of nearly 100 aircraft and 135 Special Agent/Pilots. Since SAC Hill's arrival to the division, he sought effective and efficient ways to enhance safety within the division. Through SAC Hill's leadership and dedication to aviation safety, he has worked to standardize the aircraft fleet, eliminated single-person offices, expanded the use of Special Agents/Pilots, enhanced efficiency of training programs and aircraft maintenance, and led the division to hold the IS-BAO SMS Stage III Certification. Stage III certification is the highest level achievable, showing an agency has instituted, maintained, and documented a Safety Management System (SMS) program and is continuing to expand through daily operations. SAC Hill's commitment and role within the DEA's Aviation Division has influenced change within the division to maximize operational efficiency and safety.
Texas Department of Public Safety, Aircraft Operations Division
The Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) Aircraft Division provides excellent service through their top-to-bottom “safety first” approach, intensive training, state of the art equipment, constant commitment to excellence in the air, and recognition from The Texas Department of Transportation – Flight Services for superior aircraft maintenance. The TDPS utilizes dedicated training staff for the aircraft division, a chain of command that ensures transparency, best practices for training and development, and cooperation and shared knowledge between various agencies. Along with initial and annual training, each crew member is given an annual in-house check ride by a qualified and experienced training captain in both rotor and fixed wing aircraft. This allows the Aircraft Division to further the Texas Department of Public Safety’s mission - to protect and serve Texas.
Michigan State Police, Aviation Unit
The Michigan State Police Aviation Unit provides exceptional service by making it easier for officers to access aviation assets, expanding the mission set of the Aviation Unit, educating law enforcement professionals around the state, embracing new technology, and providing well-trained and properly equipped air crews for assignments. This is accomplished by using a mix of experienced schedulers, maintainers, pilots, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operators, and Tactical Flight Officers (TFO). The MSP Aviation Unit is the first police agency in the country with the capability to transmit live video images via satellite to a secure internet connection to internet enabled devices. Their UAS program was the first with a statewide Certificate of Authentication (COA), the first to gain approval to operate in Class B, C, and D Airspace, and the first to operate two flyers with ‘in air replacement’ capability. The MSP Aviation Unit’s safety record is unmatched, and they are a leader in terms of UAS mission utilization.
Senior Officer/Air Support Safety Officer
Senior Police Officer and Air Support Safety Officer Cory Frank has been a dedicated member of the Houston Police Department Air Support Unit in Texas for the past 26 years. The Air Support Division is a valued resource of the Houston Police Department, as it supports ground units in search-and-rescue and traffic control year-round. The aircraft and equipment used to complete the mission are extremely technical and require a dedicated Safety Officer to oversee the Unit’s safety practices. Officer Frank plans, implements, and coordinates safety and environmental programs in accordance with written regulations, procedures, and policies. Officer Frank has served in the Safety Officer position for the past nine years. Recently, the Air Support Unit received recognition from the Helicopter Manufacture MD for over 200,000 flight hours without any aircraft accidents. This is a direct reflection of the safety oversight and guidance provided by Officer Frank. Senior Police Officer Frank is highly respected and accomplished, with over 4,000 hours as pilot in command, and has received many accolades from his peers and supervisors.
Seminole County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office
Seminole County sits just north of Orlando, Florida and is home to a little under 450,000 residents. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) Aviation Section is responsible for providing air support within the county and provides service for several other city police agencies within the service area.
In today’s operations, the agency has a mission profile that continues to diversify in what they provide the county, but mainly focuses on supporting patrol operations. The unit also offers firefighting capability and the only SWAT deployment and hoist rescue ability in the Orlando metro area. In 2016 the unit delivered 128 water drops on wildfires in and around Seminole County. Within the first six months of 2017, the unit had already been called to make 276 drops. One of these fires was in April 2017, near the Chuluota area of Seminole County where wildfires directly threatened a large housing development. Due to the water drops from the assigned unit, no homes were lost in the fire and no personnel were injured.
In 2016, the unit located 150 persons and 118 of those persons were located using the thermal camera. In two major 2017 cases, an officer involved in a shooting and a stolen vehicle crash with multiple fatalities, the aircrew’s work and camera footage were used to detail the actions of involved law enforcement units.
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Section has worked to maximize efficiency, safety, and customer support since its inception. The unit members make great efforts in training and continuing education to make sure they are delivering the best possible service to the community. Unit members are motivated to find new and innovative ways to deliver the most professional public safety aviation services possible.
Today the SCSO Aviation Section prides itself in not only meeting, but setting the standard in law enforcement aviation. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office has a goal to embrace not only their efforts to provide transparency to the public, but in their air unit’s efforts to constantly look for ways to improve their safety practices and strive to find more ways to improve their operations.