Hovering above, KCPD chopper crews provide invaluable support for ground officers

Jim Cunningham
October 23, 2018 - 6:01 am

When it comes to catching bad guys, some police officers rarely have to worry about traffic. KMBZ's Jim Cunningham recently took a flight with the Kansas City Police Department's helicopter unit.

The helicopter crews are always at the ready to provide vital air support to officers on the ground. They work two shifts, seven days a week. Each helicopter has a pilot and an observer. Officer Bob Riley has been with the KCPD for 17 years, and he has flown the chopper for three and a half years. 

"Some of our city is in controlled air space, so the pilot has to be in contact with the airport," Riley said. "The pilot also monitors the police radio, so you have to multi-task quite a bit, when you're flying."

At the start of each shift, the crew meets with the mechanic. They perform a pre-flight check of the aircraft, which is then moved outside the hangar. Within minutes, the crew is airborne.

The most common call for the police helicopter is to assist with vehicle pursuits.

"We can watch the vehicle where (the ground officers) can kind of back off and not push it," Riley said. "We can follow the vehicle to the stop and they can be taken into custody."

Riley said people often assume that if the helicopter is flying above, something must be wrong. But the chopper crews conduct regular patrols just like ground units. Without those patrols, many situations would have much different outcomes.

"There are several people that would have escaped or gotten away, had it not been for the helicopter," Riley said. "There are a lot of situation that we make a huge difference in safety for the public and the officers on the ground."

The KCPD Helicopter Unit has been in operation almost 52 years.

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