Aerial Support: MSP Boosts Police Efficiency From the Sky



For the past 11 years, Michigan State Police has been assisting with patrolling Kent County, Michigan, not only on the ground but also from a helicopter. However, this method has caused controversy among Grand Rapids residents, with some claiming that the helicopter creates air pollution and invades their privacy. The MSP helicopter aids in patrolling crimes, assists in search and rescue efforts, and provides a different viewpoint from the air, enhancing officer safety by allowing them to monitor situations from a distance.

Michigan State Police Air Patrol in Kent County Sparks Controversy

For more than a decade, the Michigan State Police (MSP) has been conducting aerial patrols in Kent County, sparking debates among Grand Rapids’ locals about air pollution and privacy.

News 8’s Taylor Morris recently had an opportunity to experience what MSP troopers do to assist other local law enforcement agencies from a bird’s eye view. During the MSP helicopter ride, Lt. Nick Olivo, a pilot with MSP, shed light on the mission.

“The main mission when we’re up there can change daily,” said Olivo. “Primarily, we spend our time flying Secure Cities Partnership patrols.”

The Secure Cities Partnership

The Secure Cities Partnership, launched in 2012, is an initiative where MSP teamed up with city, county, and federal law enforcement agencies to patrol areas witnessing an increase in violent crime. This includes cities like Flint, Saginaw, Detroit, and Grand Rapids.

“We focus on how we can make the jobs of officers on the ground safer,” commented Josh Maskey, a technical flight officer with MSP.

However, these aerial patrols haven’t been universally embraced, with locals voicing concerns about noise pollution and potential privacy violations.

“We are aware that these patrols can cause inconvenience,” said Olivo. “We try to mitigate this by flying higher and not hovering over the same area for extended periods unless necessary.”

Addressing Privacy Concerns

MSP gave News 8 a demonstration of how they patrol the streets to assuage Orwellian surveillance fears. The helicopter uses an infrared camera that cannot see inside homes, cars, or any type of glass.

Aside from helping patrol crime, MSP also assists with search and rescues, providing a unique aerial perspective.

“We can get there before anyone else. So, it’s my job to paint a picture for the other law enforcement officers,” said Maskey.

“Our vantage point and ability to monitor situations also contributes to officer safety. For instance, we can follow a vehicle that speeds off from a traffic stop, eliminating need for a high-speed pursuit,” explained Olivo.

MSP conducts these aerial patrols once a week, typically on Saturdays.

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