A new police helicopter was rolled out on Thursday, a tri-county asset to fighting crime, searching for missing persons, and serving as a life-saving platform during a natural disaster or terrorist incident.
“Guardian One” will be operated by the King County Sheriff’s Office and will also help the Pierce and Snohomish counties’ sheriffs offices.
The new helicopter, a Bell 407, was built in Canada and outfitted in Tennessee for police duty. The cost was $3.4 million, which came from a federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
“This is truly a regional asset,” said King County 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 1970s-era, military surplus helicopters are becoming increasingly expensive to continue 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.
Guardian One is equipped with a night-to-day spotlight, Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), mapping software and a downlink so that 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 Department of Ecology (tracking environmental incidents), and the King County Department 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.