14 Comments

No matter how you slice it, LAPD's (over)use of its helicopters is bad, but the climate considerations add a new layer to this discussion. Their fleet needs to be downsized if not dismantled outright, not that I expect it to happen.

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Wow, what an eye-opening piece!! I'm curious if this reporting would be replicable in other cities -- I'm a journalist based in NYC, and am now very curious about the NYPD's climate impact. (I don't think they use helicopters as much as the LAPD but they certainly have an excessive number of cars/trucks.)

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Totally! I’m sure Arielle can weigh in better than I can here, but I think it depends on what type of info the NYPD discloses. We were only able to get the LAPD’s emission numbers because an independent researcher took the painstaking approach of looking at flight data and estimating fuel use

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Ah, I see. I'll look into it!

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author

Yes, definitely! The NYPD has a much smaller fleet, 7 helicopters, but there's also all the patrol cars. It's definitely worth looking into! Please feel free to email me if you'd like more details.

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I might take you up on that, thank you!

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I am a bit more curious about how their fleet

compares to other big city PDs instead of celebrities or individuals. It would provide a much more relevant understanding.

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author

As Emily mentioned, the LAPD has the largest fleet in the world. LA County has the largest fleet in the country. We only have emissions from LA because a scientist is calculating them, but you can see the size comparisons in the only census of law enforcement aviation units, in 2007: https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/aullea07.pdf

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author

The LAPD’s is the largest fleet of any municipal law enforcement agency in the worked

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But we don’t get emissions data from any of the other fleets - that’s why we compared them to the other menance of the LA skies 😊

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founding

Great article. I think covering the unknown or vastly underdiscussed sources of emissions like these are important, not just because of the immediate CO2 impacts, but also because it pushes me, and I hope others, to consider whether we need some of these things in the first place, which I think police helicopters probably don't need to be, based on your reporting. At least on this scale.

Also I have to give a shoutout to the awesome graphics Emily made.

Looking forward to the second part!

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founding

In the summer of '86 I had a job selling reference books door-to-door in San Bernardino (the armpit of LA region) and I my most vivid memories are of smog and police helicopters. I can only imagine what the accumulate climate impact of LAPD (and other jurisdictions nearby) is after all these decades.

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The police emissions issue is critical, and worth pursuing. Really good piece. The general policing issue - also very important - is, of course, different. Your article does not report how police flights are being used, for what, when they are authorized, or - perhaps most importantly, their measurable effectiveness. FOI requests would likely tell you the exact purposes, durations, success/failures etc of every flight. You mention police helicopters have not lowered crime rates. How would they? Crime rates are different that arrest, capture, rescue rates. Have you requested these? Have you spoken to police about chopper operations? Let's assume we could successfully ground these flights. What would replace them?

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In Vancouver (BC) the various municipal police forces do not have a single helicopter, but regionally, there is one flown by the RCMP and called in on an as-needed basis. Saskatoon, in the prairies, is unique among North American cities as its police fly a Cessna Skylane: "If you look at what it costs to purchase, we don’t even enter into that equation. We are talking about a few hundred thousand bucks a year to operate our unit. If you’re talking helicopter, it’s anywhere from a thousand to $1,500 per hour.” The Ontario Provincial Police (who cover the province, especially the smaller towns and districts) have three helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft. But then, Canada's entire population could fit into California's, with room for several thousand illegal border crossings more.

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