The highs and lows of establishing airborne policing

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Police aviation units offer an invaluable service to officers on the ground. From enabling a clear aerial view to help command make the right tactical decisions, transporting personnel and civilians into and out of areas of trouble, and to recording live video evidence from an enviable vantage point, it is a resource that cannot be underestimated.

As far as the records can tell us, air support has been used by police in the UK since the early 1920s when an airship R33 was flown over the famous Epsom Derby and Ascot horse races to assist in crowd control. In 1936, police could be seen taking to the skies in an autogyro, overseeing the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ riots in London’s East End.

While the decades that followed saw many individual police forces throughout England and Wales (now governed by the Association of Chief Police Officers) acquire or borrow their own air support assets, totalling 31 separate air support units, it was not until October 2012 that these have been begun to be centralised under a single service. [Download teh report to read on...]