To protect and serve

A law enforcement agency in Redlands, Calif., is considering adding a Light Sport Aircraft to its crime-fighting arsenal.

Recently the Redlands Police Department put a Flight Design CTSW to the test.

“We put it through 12 law enforcement scenarios and it passed with flying colors,” said Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann.

Redlands, located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has a population of 70,000.

According Bueermann, the aircraft will enable the department to patrol its jurisdiction better.

“The department’s patrol area covers 40 miles of diverse terrain,” he said. “The area includes a city that has a concentrated population and two large canyons and the Santa Ana River. There is a lot of open space that is difficult to patrol because there are no roads or the roads are so rough they will damage a patrol car. We have had stolen cars and bodies dumped there before.”

The department evaluated the possibility of obtaining a helicopter or leasing one, but the cost was well outside what it could afford. Although the department’s budget has been cut over the years, the crime rate has continued to rise, said Bueermann.

“The cost was about $165,000 a year for a contract helicopter that we could use no more than 20 hours a week,” he said. “On the other hand we could operate the CT for $40,000 to $50,000 a year after the initial cost of approximately $100,000. It has been a challenge to find an aircraft that can meet our demands at an affordable price, but we feel the CT is the best for a variety of reasons, including its large payload, slow stall speed and good visibility. It can also get anyplace in the county from the airport in a few minutes. During the training scenario the aircraft arrived on scene in one or two minutes, whereas the driving response time for the ground officers was closer to five to eight minutes because of traffic.”

Ideally, said Bueermann, the department will hire a pilot and have an officer on board as an observer. The department also is considering outfitting the aircraft with a lightweight camera similar to the ones used on UAVs so that an officer on the ground can assist in surveillance.

If the City Council approves the purchase, the department will use money from drug and automobile seizures to make the purchase.

“No money will come out of the general fund,” Bueermann stressed.

He expects to take the issue before the City Council in a few weeks.

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