HomeCity NewsBurbank, Glendale Purchase $5M Police Helicopter

Burbank, Glendale Purchase $5M Police Helicopter

The Joint Air Support Unit, a collaborative airborne law enforcement resource guided by the Burbank and Glendale police departments, will soon be receiving a new $5 million helicopter.

Following an official purchase approval on Tuesday from the Glendale City Council — the terms of which the city of Burbank previously agreed to — the new chopper will join the current ranks of aerial patrols. At the meeting to represent Burbank was BPD Cpt. Adam Cornils.

The need for this helicopter is overdue, six years overdue to be exact, officials stressed. The JASU currently has three helicopters — one of which was purchased 26 years ago. Under the ratification of the JASU’s creation in 2006 is a mandate that helicopters be replaced 20 years after their initial purchase.

The cities have selected MD Helicopters, which is the same provider of the unit’s other helicopter models, for the $5 million purchase of a new helicopter. Just as with all costs associated with the JASU, Burbank and Glendale will split the price tag down the middle, with Glendale initiating the purchase and Burbank reimbursing its neighbor city for $2.5 million. The $5 million includes not only the helicopter, but also pilot training, mission-ready outfitting and sales tax.

Supporting each department’s Patrol Bureau is the main function of the JASU, said Lt. Manny Fernandez, who manages the JASU along with other specialized units in GPD.

“The air unit works as a force multiplier for units on the ground in that they are able to arrive at calls within seconds when flying and provide valuable information to officers on the ground,” Fernandez told the Leader.

Glendale Police Cpt. Robert William said at the Glendale’s Tuesday City Council meeting that a JASU helicopter essentially takes the place of 15 officers on the ground in terms of its ability to track possible exit routes a suspect may take in a pursuit.

The added surveillance the air support provides allows ground officers to take a “more conservative” approach when tracking suspects, “thus reducing the risk to officers and the general public,” Fernandez said.

Helicopter access also allows for faster response times to scenes, as they arrive first on scene 80% of the time during priority calls for service.

“Despite all the modern technology we have, a helicopter remains one of the most asked for resources from our officers to do their jobs safely,” William said. “It’s essential for high-risk operations, offering aerial support to ground units during pursuits, SWAT deployments, hostage situations and just improving overall officer safety and operational success.”

Along with these functions, the unit also assists with locating missing persons, responding to natural disasters, flying over critical infrastructure and collaborating with each city’s fire departments for fire mitigation and prevention efforts.

Helicopters in the JASU conduct three to four daily patrol flights each spanning an hour and a half.

“During those flights, [officers] have the discretion of responding to calls where they could be of assistance while prioritizing calls in each city,” Fernandez said.

The JASU is a relatively small team with one sergeant, five pilot officers and one civilian mechanic. Though the sergeant who supervises the JASU is from GPD, Fernandez views the unit as a “true partnership” between the cities.

First published in the April 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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