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Air Support Unit back on patrol
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A unique funding source and a renewed partnership are clearing the path for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department helicopters to take to the skies again.
The Air Support Unit has been grounded for more than a year, except for emergencies and some search and rescue missions. But now money from drug asset forfeitures and a partnership with the Modesto Police Department is opening up patrols again.
The Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, which is made up of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, will be providing financial support through asset forfeiture funds. These funds come from money which has been seized by criminals involved in drug trafficking operations. The money will be used to pay for the operational cost of the helicopter, such as fuel and maintenance. The Asset forfeiture funds cannot be used for hiring personnel.
Another way the department is offsetting the cost of operating the Air Support Unit is through collaboration with the Modesto Police Department. The sheriff's department owns and operates the helicopters and the MPD provides Tactical Flight Officers.
The Tactical Flight Officers are entrusted to operate the helicopter's digital camera system, monitor the law enforcement radios, coordinate ground officers during searches, and operate the high-powered spotlight systems. In addition, they are trained to perform long-line rescues for injured or stranded victims in dangerous and unstable environments.
"We are proud to once again provide this valuable resource for the officers in the field and citizens in our county," said Stanislaus Sheriff Adam Christianson. "Because of the ongoing collaboration and cooperation of all of the local law enforcement agencies in the county, we are able to provide a unique service even during tight budget times."
Memorial Day weekend will kick-off the patrols of the Air Support Unit in Stanislaus County.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.