Law Enforcement


Well-Known Member
1. What is the typical path to a helicopter pilot position with the typical PD?
2. Do most A) Hire outsiders B)Hire from the officer ranks and pay for training C)hire from within but don't pay for training?
3. Are there politics involved in the selection process? Is it usually about who you know?
4. Is training done by your agency or is there an organization most LEO pilots go to?



Staff member
Typically start as a ground officer. Usually for a long time. Some PDs train in house, others want experienced people. Some hire only from in house, some hire from outside from experienced people. Since air units are generally very small parts of the PD, it often is who you know and a tight selection process....esp with the in-house assignments. Training can be done in-house if the PD is big enough, but can also be done outside.

Basically, it all depends. Depends on the individual department or agency.


Well-Known Member
When I was flying for PD in Nashville, they had both civilian and sworn pilots. The sworn guys usually were required to have at minimum a private FW or RW, I guess it showed they were "trainable", and had interest. Us civvy guys were trained in house on the TFO operations. As far as the flying, there wasnt a whole lot of training, except for how the TFO wanted orbits flown, or pacing traffic, etc.. All in all, some of the most fun flying I have ever done, just didnt pay as much as HEMS.


Unapologetically American
My experience is about the same as posted above. Most LE pilots are sworn but like said above some do have non-sworn pilots. A lot depends on the mission of the dept. Some do just LE missions where others do SAR, EMS, Fire support, etc. The majority of getting the LE job is who you know and your years of service with the department. Sorry I couldn't really offer anymore insight but each depts. so different. Did you have a certain one in mind?


Well-Known Member
That's great that some will only require a PPL.

I'm not in a position to get hired yet, but I'm considering LE and this might be something to shoot for in the future.

I'm interested in either the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office ( or Broward Sheriff's Office ( I took a RW intro flight last year and the instructor, who was at the most in his early 20s, told me that he also flew for BSO. I'm not sure how he pulled that off nor how BSO selects their pilots though.

Old Pete

Cockpit Authoritarian
I'm neither a RW pilot or a LEO, but I am fortunate enough to have a few friends who are helicopter pilots for a few different police departments and I have gotten a ride in a police helicopter.
I'm sure it varies, but everyone that I know:
1. were police officers for several years in their p.d. before they were selected.
2. all had a private pilot certificate SEL , but no other ratings or certificates.
3. the department paid for all of their helicopter training.
4. the selection process involves more than a little politics and favoritism.


Well-Known Member
I spent the last several years (of my more than three decades as a cop) in LE in Airborne Law Enforcement, and what the others have said is pretty accurate. Most - but certainly not all - agencies require you to be a cop first, then apply to the Aviation Unit. Qualifications, timing, and yes, sadly (and particularly, seems like more so nowadays) "who ya know", will all play a part in eventual selection the Aviation Unit. Many (maybe most) Aviation Units will require you to be an Observer (now often called a TFO:Tactical Flight Officer") first, and you might have to do this for years till a Pilot opening occurs. Some agencies will hire you right into the cockpit, either in a Sworn capacity (maybe with some abbreviated Academy/LE training), or as a Civilian Pilot, but the Civilian Pilot positions are in the minority. As far as paying for training, it can vary widely by agency: A very few will train a Sworn Officer from scratch; most (in my experience) require at least a Private Helo ticket, and will train the right guy "up" from there; and some agencies require you to already be a very experienced helo pilot (this is usually the case for those LE agencies willing to take Civilian Helo Pilots).

Some other things you might want to keep in mind: Since the majority of LE agencies in the USA do not hire you right into the cockpit of their Aviation Unit and you will therefore start out “on the street” for awhile (could even turn out to be quite awhile) you need to know right up front that not everyone who even applies to the Aviation Unit will get there....... these are highly desired specialized assignments, lots of your fellow officers will also apply, and once there, they will rarely transfer out. A lot will even turn down promotions to stay in the Aviation Unit. I guess what I am saying is that unless you get hired by an LE Agency that hires civilian pilots, you really must want to be a cop first, then a pilot second (much like Military Officer pilots, who must commit to being an Officer first, and a pilot second) because the reality is, you may never make it to the Aviation Unit. Also, if being a Law Enforcement Pilot is your goal, going to a big LE Agency with a BIG Aviation Unit, will be to your benefit. (It also will give you a greater opportunity to potentially do other LE jobs - besides Pilot - with that agency, if you so desire..... there are lots of other fun assignments in LE for cops at big, fast-paced Dept's, like SWAT, Motors, Undercover narco, Detectives, etc.) For younger folks, especially those who are veterans, CBP may be a very good fit for those desiring to be a LE Pilot. (Though you will miss out on the most fun part of Law Enforcement: Being a street cop!) Lastly, know that being a cop is not for everybody; that's not a slam on anyone, just the honest truth. If you choose to pursue being a cop, make sure you do your "homework" to lots of cops (both Pilots and Street Cops) and know what you are getting into. Good luck!


Well-Known Member
At my department, our aviaiton wing is small. There were going to go 24 hours a days a few years back but the budget chopped that idea. We actually made our flight department a bare bones until recently. They still don't fly as much as they use to as we don't have the money but it is slowly coming back. Everything above is correct about how to get in. Some agencies will bring you on a civilian (not mine) but that is a harder position to get. The things you will get to see and do in LE is worth the time on the street before flying. Because once you go air support you are a traffic cop, doing multiple orbits/hovering. Your needed to be an eye in the sky so if it is IFR your not flying.