The Riverside Police Department has one of the top law enforcement Aviation Units in the region.  The Aviation Unit provides multi-function support for ground operations in observing, preventing and interdicting criminal activity. They conduct investigations of criminal and non-criminal activity in wilderness areas not readily accessible to ground units. They provide traffic surveillance, control, and aerial support for vehicle pursuits. They give back-up assistance to ground units. They conduct tactical team (METRO) insertions and extractions. They provide for VIP protection support. Using forward-looking infrared technology, they provide search and rescue services and conduct area searches for concealed suspects and for lost persons. They provide an aerial photography platform. They routinely assist the Riverside Fire Department and CDF with fire spotting, surveying, and fire suppression by aerial application of water on non-structural fires. They provide assistance to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and task forces on narcotics, 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 Aviation Unit is equipped to act as an aerial command post, providing evacuation warnings, dispersal orders or other public address, crowd control coordination, disaster assessment and coordination.  Equipped with an extensive array of multi-frequency radios, they are able to communicate with neighboring agencies, providing a vital link between the Riverside Police Department and these allied agencies.

In 2001 Riverside Police Aircrews flew 2000 hours and assisted with 473 arrests and 55 pursuits. Because helicopters are not limited to roadways, stoplights or speed limits, they are usually the first police unit to arrive at an incident.  In 2001, aircrews arrived on scene prior to ground units on 3,506 of the 5,025 calls to which they responded. In addition, they were able to handle 1,714 calls without the assistance of ground units, freeing patrol officers for other calls.

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.

Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement

One helicopter and pilot are specifically designated to assist the California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. They provide tactical air surveillance and assistance for high profile narcotics cases. During 2001, this mission was highly successful with 446 hours of flight time resulting in:


The Riverside Police Aviation 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.


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