If buzzing Los Angeles Police Department helicopters keep you up at night, be prepared for more insomnia. Following the ambush in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that took the lives of three police officers, and following the fatal shootings of five cops in Dallas, LAPD is beefing up its patrols in the name of officer safety.
First and foremost, that means more helicopters in the air.
On most days there have been one or two air units up, but now there will be three, according to the department's Air Support Division. (Ideally that number would be four, but maintenance is keeping many helicopters grounded.)
The years-old plan for ideal helicopter coverage of this vast, nearly 500-square-mile city is to have one air unit available to each bureau — Central, West, South and Valley. However, budget considerations and maintenance grounding for many of the LAPD's 17 choppers means that only two and sometimes one airship are up on most days in recent years.
If there are two helicopters in the air, they're usually split between the Valley and the rest of the city. With three up, they're usually split between the Valley, north of the 10 freeway and south of the 10 freeway.
Choppers — LAPD's go-to ride is the American Eurocopter AS350 B2 — are a cost-effective way to help patrol a city that's the size of some nations, police officials say. Los Angeles has a small police force, about 10,000 badges, compared with its geographic breadth and population size (nearly 4 million).
New York, with a population of 8.4 million, has a force of more than 34,000 officers. Los Angeles has about 26 officers for every 10,000 people; New York has 42.
Helicopters, often used for officer safety and backup tactics, are crucial in Los Angeles, police have argued. But air units aren't the only troops being brought to the table in the wake of Baton Rouge and Dallas.
Over the weekend Mayor Eric Garcetti laid out the plan.
“This includes doubling our air assets, shifting Metropolitan Division officers to a role of force protection to help back up patrol officers responding to calls for service, and adding additional resources to help screen our 911 calls,” he said.
Elite “Metro” officers, who feed the city's SWAT teams, usually work independently on crime hot spots.
Today, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said it wasn't clear when this deployment would wrap up.
“Even in the wake of such horrific attacks on their fellow brother and sister officers across this nation, Los Angeles police officers have never hesitated to protect our city and keep us safe,” Beck said.
He asked anyone who hears someone making criminal threats against L.A. cops to call 877-527-3247.