The RCMP helicopter, known as ‘Mike Poppa Poppa’ flew into the Red Deer Airport on Wednesday morning to allow the media to learn more about its operations. It is the only RCMP helicopter in Alberta. The police force also utilizes three RCMP planes for investigative purposes as well.
The helicopter is equipped with a sophisticated camera system that offers a 360 degree view with normal videography as well as Infrared, a communication system with various police radios, a satellite phone, a ‘night sun’ which is a powerful spotlight that can light up an entire area, night vision goggles, a sling which allows for the pick-up of something on the ground, among others.
“This is another tool available for our members and investigators on the ground doing that challenging and difficult work to enhance their safety and that of the public,” said Foster. “Some examples of that are when you have vehicles flee from police. The olds days of high speed pursuits and chasing people over hills and through ditches are gone. It is such a dangerous activity and the risk to the public is high.
“Having an aerial platform from which to observe and monitor the movements of that vehicle and help direct the resources in a manner that is safer for the public but also for our police officers, is just good business and it really makes sense. It also sends a very strong message to those that are committing any of these crimes that there is another tool out there in law enforcement and you can’t run away from a helicopter.”
Other examples of how the RCMP helicopter is used to view a crime scene or serious motor vehicle collision scene from above.
“As well, when emergency response teams are deployed in very high risk situations whether it be a barricaded individual or a hostage taking or something along those lines, being able to provide a picture from the sky to the people on the ground doing that dangerous work is certainly beneficial,” said Foster. “Also, if somebody broke away from the scene and was running - whether it’s day or night - they can certainly direct the resources to deal with that threat.”
Foster said he believes seeing the RCMP helicopter flying around also gives the public a sense of security.
“It’s not always because something has happened, if it’s here, and that is our goal, is to utilize that a little bit more in Red Deer as a patrol platform, so that when those incidents are happening, it’s in the air, it’s available and it can react very quickly.”
Const. Jason Wells, a tactical flight officer, said the helicopter is a vital tool for the RCMP.
“It gives you that advantage from an aerial view. For instance if we are doing an investigation on a rural property where investigators couldn’t get an eye on it - maybe looking for stolen property that you wouldn’t be able to see from the ground - the aerial view provides that other advantage. It also gives another advantage for officer safety if a suspect were to leave the property or another suspect is approaching officers from another angle - if there was a threat, the aircraft would be able to identify that long before someone on the ground might be able see it,” he said.
“For search and rescue as well, especially on mountainous terrain - it is definitely an integral tool.”