Getting into Law Enforcement Aviation

Law enforcement aviation officers are employed within an agency’s aviation unit. These officers are capable of operating aircraft to perform search-and rescue missions, routine patrols, and assist other operations.

In the United States, up to 18,000 agencies and departments use law enforcement aviation assets on a daily basis. In today’s post, we’ll talk about the path to becoming an airborne law enforcement officer.

Law Enforcement Aviation Officers: Responsibilities

Airborne law enforcement operations generally involve patrols, tactical-team transportations, EMS and search and rescue missions, inmate transport, and even firefighting operations.

Law enforcement aviation help in emergency response efforts.

Police aviation units often have fixed-wing or rotor platforms.

The crews will generally consist of a Tactical Flight Officer and a pilot. The Tactical Flight Officer is the one primarily responsible for equipment operation that doesn’t relate to the actual flight.

With that being said, an aircraft unit does not officially become a law enforcement aviation until the Tactical Flight Officer says so and starts up all the equipment. These equipment and devices include forward-looking infrared and video cameras and police radios, for instance.

Requirements for Being a Police Aviation Officer

Most police agencies in the United States require law enforcement aviation members to be sworn police officers, first and foremost. Many of these also order a minimum of three to five years of on-ground patrol experience.

There are four-year and community colleges, as well as police academies, that offer state-approved law enforcement certifications. This certification is an excellent steppingstone to get into the law enforcement profession.

When applying to be part of a police aviation unit, individuals with prior aviation experience will have higher chances to be selected. Outside the United States, however, members of airborne law enforcement units are also commonly composed of civilian staff.

Flight Qualification Requirements

There are pilot and aircraft regulations implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration. However, airborne law enforcement units are exempt from these.

Law enforcement aviation officers must follow guidelines.

Still, a majority of these units follow the accreditation guidelines developed by airborne law enforcement entities.

It’s primarily required for pilots to have, at the very least, a commercial license to operate an aircraft.

Some aircraft units mandate police aviation candidates to hold a private pilot’s certification. Other units accept regular police officers and provide tactical flight training and pilot training. Some of the prerequisites for these training programs are a minimum of three years’ service commitment from accepted individuals.

Law Enforcement Aviation: Important Career Considerations

Salary is one of the more important considerations when choosing a profession. With law enforcement aviation, similar to other professions, salary is influenced by a number of factors. The salary is also commonly increased with bonuses and incentive pay.

It’s common for police aviation officers not to accept any promotions, as this means they will have to be removed from the aviation unit. Still, more and more police departments are incorporating unmanned aerial systems, or more popularly known as drones, into their law enforcement equipment.

Law enforcement drones are allowed under the FAA’s Part 107 rules. These guidelines require pilots who operate commercial aircraft to hold a private pilot’s certification. With the current trends in the law enforcement industry, these positions are most likely here to stay. 

Important Component of Law Enforcement Operations

Aviation aircraft units are a vital component of day-to-day law enforcement operations. They are, without a doubt, a significant advantage to police forces. These airborne units offer essential services to the population. They also provide quick response to emerging threats, all while ensuring the safety of the responding police officers and the people.

From getting a bird’s eye view perspective of the scene to the use of specialized infrared sensors, a career in law enforcement aviation is invaluable.