Cochise County, located in the southeast corner of Arizona, has taken delivery of its first-ever law enforcement helicopter. The aircraft, a Bell 206L4, is part of a one-year lease program between Airwest Helicopters of Glendale, Ariz., the Cochise County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) and the Sierra Vista Police Department (SVPD).
The $1.5-million program is being funded by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, a non-profit humanitarian organization founded by the 59-year-old son of billionaire business tycoon, Warren Buffet. In addition to being a farmer and philanthropist, the younger Buffet is also a volunteer deputy sheriff in Macon County, Ill.
"We have to work together at the local level, combine our resources... to get the job done," said Sheriff Mark Dannels. "It's a shared resource for both agencies."
Sierra Vista's mayor, Rick Mueller, praised the efforts of Sheriff Dannels to make the aircraft available to the SVPD. "It would have been very easy for him to say, 'This is my baby, this is my operation,' but he didn't. He looked at the county holistically, and tried to figure out the best way to use the tools available."
In the past, the CCSO and SVPD had to request air support from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both of which were often too occupied with their own missions to be come to the county's and the city's assistance. With their own air unit based at the Sierra Vista Municipal Airport (KFHU), the CCSO and SVPD will have a helicopter to cover the county's 6,200-square-mile area, which includes Sierra Vista's 153-square-mile jurisdiction.
Once the one-year contract is up, the parties will assess the success of the program, and decide if it should be renewed.
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