Riverside Police Department

Air Support Unit

The Air Support Unit (ASU) was established in 1971; at that time there was one helicopter and three police officer pilots.  The ASU has grown to: three patrol helicopters, one surveillance helicopter, seven police officer pilots, one sworn police tactical flight officer (TFO), a sergeant/relief TFO, and two civilian mechanics.  The ASU patrols seven days a week.   


The ASU provides multi-function airborne support for police ground operations in observing, preventing and interdicting criminal activity. The pilots provide aerial support during vehicle and foot pursuits and back-up assistance to ground units. They conduct tactical team insertions and extractions where it is not practical or possible by vehicle or on foot.  Using forward-looking infrared technology (FLIR), the ASU provides search and rescue services and conduct area searches for concealed suspects. 


The ASU assists several City departments as an aerial photography platform, FLIR and video inspection of the Public Utilities power grid that aids in preventing power interruptions, assists the Riverside Fire Department and California Department of Forestry with fire spotting, surveying, and fire suppression by aerial application of water.  The ASU also assists local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with narcotic enforcement, criminal surveillance and investigations.


In times of natural disaster, hazardous material spills, civil unrest or other major incidents presenting a threat to life and property, the ASU is equipped to act as an aerial command post, providing evacuation warnings, crowd control coordination, disaster assessment and coordination.  In addition, the unit is able to provide real-time video downlink directly to a command post and to units in the field via the city intranet. 

Riverside Police Aircrews fly approximately 2,200 hrs. a year. Because helicopters are not limited to roadways, stoplights or speed limits, they are usually the first police unit to arrive at an incident. 

After the events of September 11, Riverside Police Aircrews coordinated with the local Federal Aviation Administration office and March Air Reserve Base to continue aerial patrols of the city. Several locations in and around the city were named as critical locations and possible terrorist targets in need of extra security. Aircrews continue to provide that security.


The Riverside Police Air Support Unit is located in a state-of-the-art hangar facility on the north side of Riverside Municipal Airport.

The unit operates two Hughes 500D model and two M D 500E model helicopters.

Three patrol crews cover the 100 square mile city 19 hours a day, 7 days a week. One surveillance crew provides surveillance and support to the State Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

The aviation unit is part of the Special Operations Division.

All of the pilots are police officers.

Special Operations
(951) 353-7941
Magnolia Station:
10540 Magnolia Ave. Ste. B
Riverside, CA 92505
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