Metropolitan King County Council
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Toll Free: 800-325-6165
Aug. 4, 2008
King County Sheriff’s Air Support Unit debuts new helicopter
Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer joins Sheriff Rahr and Council colleagues in aerial tour above King County in new “Guardian One”Last Thursday (July 31) the King County Sheriff's Office, along with Pierce County S.O. and Snohomish County S.O., introduced the new “Guardian One” helicopter, a tri-county asset to fight crime, search for missing persons, and serve as an invaluable, life-saving platform during a natural disaster or terrorist incident.
“The Sheriff’s Air Support Unit provides a critical service to citizens across the region,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “The King County Sheriff’s Office has successfully developed partnerships with law enforcement in Pierce and Snohomish counties that makes our region a safer place.”
The new Bell 407 just arrived in Seattle. It was built in Canada and outfitted in Tennessee for police duty. The cost was $3.4 million of Federal money which came from an Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant from the Dept. of Homeland Security. The King County Sheriff's Office was selected after consensus was reached within King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.
“This is truly a regional asset”, said Sheriff Sue Rahr. “The benefits go beyond the borders of King County, and we are very pleased to have this partnership with our neighboring counties and the State Patrol.”
The new Guardian One was needed as the Sheriff's Office other 1970’s era, military surplus helicopters are becoming increasingly expensive to keep flying. This new Bell 407 will be the primary helicopter used for police work, while a UH-1N Huey will be used for rescues involving the hoist. The Air Support Unit also operates three OH-58 “Kiowa” helicopters.
Guardian One is equipped with a night-to-day spotlight, Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), mapping software, and a downlink so a ground-based command post can see what the pilot sees, as well as the latest avionics for flight safety.
The Sheriff's Office has air support contracts with the Coast Guard (finding and tracking oil spills), Washington State Dept. of Ecology (tracking environmental incidents), and the King County Dept. of Natural Resources (finding river hazards and environmental issues).
Guardian One is available to any police agency in the three county area while flying for crime fighting and suspect apprehension at no charge.
The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office flew their helicopter to Thursday’s official roll out ceremony. Fixed-wing aircraft from the Pierce County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Patrol also appeared at the event.
The King County Sheriff’s Air Support Unit is the only full-time rotary-wing law enforcement aviation unit in Washington State. Three other counties (Chelan, Thurston and Snohomish) each operate one helicopter on a limited, part-time basis, primarily for wilderness Search & Rescue and wilderness firefighting support. The Air Support Unit operates six days per week with total annual flight time averaging about 1,000 hours a year.