Take a tour of the new police choppers

Ever wondered what the police helicopter looks like up close? This is one of the three new choppers the police department started using about four months ago. Officers say they’re much safer and effective than the old models.

You can’t tell from the ground, but those police helicopters that often fly over Midtown are faster, sleeker and smarter.

Sgt. Sean Cutburth, who flies them, spoke last week about the advantages of the three new helicopters purchased last year for $8.6 million.

They’ve been patrolling for about four months now and he talked about the crime-fighting role of helicopters in general and how these do it better.

Maybe their biggest role is in car chases, especially when protocol rules can end the ground pursuit.

“We can stay overhead even if the police cars on the ground back off,” he said. Their new night vision goggles, at $10,500 a pair, “take the slightest bit of light and amplify it,” so it looks like daylight with a greenish tint.

Pilots direct police to where the fleeing car stops and where the bad guys bail out of it or go into homes. A new map overlay also gives the exact addresses on the ground to feed to police below.

“That’s a huge difference,” Cutburth said.

The night vision goggles make for much safer flying because pilots can clearly see things like power lines and poles.

A thermal camera mounted on the side of the helicopter includes a laser pointer, seen only through the goggles, so pilots can hone in on objects putting out heat.

Their new spotlights can also shine an invisible beam on bad guys that officers on the ground with goggles can see.

With the new faster machines also comes the ability to transmit images from the air to police computers on the ground.

Choppers also check rooftops for burglars, search for lost children or elderly people who wander away, and spot cars that have gone off embankments.

There are now seven pilots who operate in two shifts and one aircraft is almost always flying patrol for four hours of each shift, he said. Their main fly areas are Midtown’s central patrol area and the East and Metro patrol areas.

When not flying, the new machines are parked at a police office and hanger site near the sports stadiums. One of the old 1960s era former helicopters is also parked there, almost like a museum piece.

It’s awaiting reassignment to some other user, police said.

The KCPD’s Sgt. Sean Cutburth is one of those who flies the new helicopters.

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