Columbia Police Department may get gyrocopter

ccope@thestate.comJuly 3, 2013 

This model is similar to the one Columbia police are thinking about purchasing; they might not purchase the exact one.

COURTESY OF SPORT COPTER INC.

— The Columbia Police Department may soon have eyes in the sky.

Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago wants to purchase a gyrocopter, an aircraft that looks similar to a helicopter but is smaller.

Santiago said the gyrocopter would aid the police officers with vehicle chases, searches for missing people or suspects, traffic control, auto break-ins, special events and more.

“We’ll be looking at ways to optimize our visibility,” he said.

The department currently has two pilots who only need several additional hours of training to be certified to fly the gyrocopter, Santiago said.

One of those officers, Investigator Rafael Rodriguez, is an airplane pilot and flight instructor.

The gyrocopter would be manned by a two-person crew, Rodriguez said.

The pilot would focus on navigating the gyrocopter, and a tactical flight officer would support the ground units.

“We’re talking about something that’s going to be a force multiplier and increase officer safety,” Rodriguez said.

It will also reduce response time in some situations, he said.

Santiago estimates it will cost between $70,000 and $100,000 to buy a fully equipped gyrocopter.

The department will apply for a grant, but most of the cost would be paid for with money seized by suspects who are later convicted.

“We want the bad guys to pay for it,” Santiago said.

Columbia City Council needs to approve spending that much money, but Santiago said he ran it past council members and they love the idea.


Video: A gyrocopter is being used by police in Tomball, Texas

Reach Cope at (803) 771-865.

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