Units and Divisions Flight Operations Unit
A Brief History
As early as 1978, the Winnipeg Police Service maintained interest in the implementation of a helicopter-equipped aerial support unit. In 1998 and 2002 notable research and recommendations occurred, but without action.
In 2009, The Winnipeg Police Service completed an in-depth study into the benefits of a Flight Operations Unit (FOU) by examining its closest comparators, reviewing relevant research, and applying the benefits seen elsewhere to the Winnipeg model.
In Canada, a number of the large urban Police Services, currently either operate or have regular and reliable access to the use of a Flight Operations Unit, in particular a helicopter. Cities utilising this craft in a patrol capacity include Lower Mainland RCMP (2000), Calgary (1995), Edmonton (2001), York Region (2000), Durham Region (2000), London (tested in 1995) and Montreal (on going with QPP). Many of the units have moved to multi-aircraft operations including Calgary (2007), Edmonton (2009) and Greater Vancouver Lower Mainland (2008-RCMP).
As reported by those helicopter-equipped Services, significant benefits have been realized, including pursuit management and related liability reduction, increased public safety, officer safety, higher clearance rates, freeing up of other ‘on the ground’ resources and the ability of the aerial support to serve as a ‘force multiplier’ (a tool that allows 1 officer to accomplish the work of many).
Impact of air support units include:
- reduced risk when managing criminal flight incidents
- greater than 99% apprehension rate on criminal flight incidents
- iincreased criminal apprehension rate on a variety of call types
- significant role in the re-deployment of police personnel
- deterrence and enforcement of traffic related issues (street racing/ impaired driving)
- fast response times
- targeted high profile deterrence tool
- live video feed of incidents to ground command
- mass area searches for lost persons (Alzheimer’s, children)
The Winnipeg Police Service received full financial support through significant capital budget contribution from the City and operational funding from the Province.
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