What is it like to have the helicopter looking for you?


The other night a call went out about suspicious subjects and a car behind a business at 2AM. When officers got there they went in foot pursuit and requested additional cops to assist.

Based on the radio traffic it sounded like the officers interrupted a burglary in progress. I was close by and raced to the area. I took a perimeter spot and parked in a neighborhood southeast of where one of the suspects was last seen. I pointed my spot lights in the direction where he might pop out and left my lightbar on so the red and blue lights would bounce off the houses.

Everything was quiet outside with the exception of the radio traffic and the idling engine of my patrol car.. That’s when the sound of our helicopter could be heard in the distance. I looked to the northwest and saw it coming our way. The sound got louder and louder as it approached the sea of police lights below.

A calm and familiar voice came on the radio as a friend of mine broadcasted from above. He told us our perimeter looked good and asked where the suspects were last seen. Officers on the ground gave a description and a direction of travel.

The helicopter then went to work circling overheard as I stood next to my car watching it fly by. The only sound in the night were the rotors making their familiar and comforting noise.

While the sound of the helicopter was comforting to me, it must’ve been horrifying to the person hiding. I never gave it much thought until that night. I wondered what was going through the guy’s head as his heart pounded inside his chest like an 9.0 earthquake. His mouth must’ve been as dry as the Mohave desert during the summer on the way to Vegas. What was it like to know it would only be a matter of minutes until the inevitable happened?

That’s when a homeowner flagged an officer down about someone being in their backyard. The officer gave the address and a moment later the observer came on the air saying, “”He just jumped over the fence into the next backyard going eastbound.”

The suspect was now in the backyard of a house on a cul-de-sac one street behind where I was. A few moments later three patrol cars drove by on their way to the cul-de-sac. One of the cars was a K-9.

The officers advised over the radio they were on scene of the house a moment later. The sound of the K-9 must have been deafening to the suspect as the dog got out of the car. The sound from the K-9 and the helicopter must’ve been too much because the guy just gave up.

The search continued for about an hour and eventually everyone was caught. It was great team work setting up the perimeter so fast. The dispatcher also did a good job on the radio keeping everything in order.  It was a great example of good police work that people never hear about.


4 thoughts on “What is it like to have the helicopter looking for you?

  1. Oh, how that brought back memories. I was a dispatcher in my heyday and that was all I had to work on was what I heard.
    When I first started training, I couldn’t understand the observer or pilots’ transmissions because I was confused about the rotors. My T/O told me to listen to the voices and not the machine. I heard nothing but voice transmissions thereafter.
    However, I didn’t get to see the pretty red and blue lights reflecting off of every surface. I didn’t see the eerie glow of the helicopter dousing the backyards with its bright whiteness. I didn’t see the K9 barking and clawing at the rear door of his handler’s patrol car, begging to take a bite out of the bad guy. I could only imagine the deputies’ desperation and dedication to get that sucker. Many a time I heard the deputy yell, scream, or smoothly ask for assistance for the fellow black and white vehicles to race into the night and get his back. My only torment was missing the debriefing when the rotators go quiet, the dog is happy and aero is flying to the next call. The personnel on the scene get to talk and joke about their last caper and I’m left to my imagination without closure, just a simple Code-4. I grew to accept that and was happy if the cowboys went back to the barn in one piece. I wouldn’t have traded it for your job. Being the FIRST first responder was just as fulfilling, exhilarating, stressful and crazy funny as the traffic cop or detective.
    Thank you for the walk through the containment. Keep up the good fight.


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