As a precursor to the current IMPD Aviation Section, the IPD Tactical Air Patrol was established in 1968. The primary mission of the unit is to augment ground patrol units. Helicopters increase the productivity of police agencies by greatly enhancing department resources as a 'force multiplier.'
Studies have shown a helicopter can arrive on scene 15 times faster than ground units. It can survey and contain an area that would require up to 10 cars. Helicopter/car teams have demonstrated from 2-6 times more felony arrests than car teams alone. These capabilities enable the helicopter to direct ground units and allow them to return in-service quicker, responding to more calls for service.
Helicopters patrol at an altitude of approximately 500 feet at 45 miles per hour. Effective helicopter observation at this altitude provides a 240-degree visibility radius. This larger picture allows for wide area views of streets, rooftops, neighborhoods, parkways, business complexes and targeted areas.
An important feature of integrating helicopters into patrol work is the increased safety to officers and the public. Airborne protection from the helicopter gives a quick backup response along with scene illumination of the crime area for officers and can reduce attacks. The helicopter can also eliminate the need for high-speed ground chases.
Studies have shown where 1% of the total public safety budget is invested in helicopter operations, major crime has been suppressed by up to 25%. A recent study by the Hudson Institute concluded that the Unit was among the most important strategic weapons available to IMPD.
In 2010, IMPD streamlined its helicopter fleet from four aircraft down to one. Because of its outstanding safety record and lower operating costs, the 1968 Bell 206B JetRanger remains in service today. The JetRanger incorporates an impressive avionics package which includes a FLIR U7500, the LE-5000 Aerocomputer with Digital Video Recording capabilities, video downlinking capability via a Broadband Microwave System (BMS), and the Nightsun Searchlight. With a top speed of 130 knots, the JetRanger and a two person flight crew can remain on station for over 2.5 hours.