On the Rise

By by James T. McKenna | July 1, 2015

Police aviation accreditation standards have gained backing from an insurer, an SMS specialist and the Pentagon.
Photo courtesy of the Huntington Beach Parade

It has taken the better part of a decade, but the Airborne Law Enforcement Association’s vision for establishing common standards for police aviation units is being fulfilled.

In the last year, the work of the Public Safety Aviation Accreditation Commission (PSAAC) has gotten major boosts from a key global insurer and a safety management system (SMS) services company. Each entered into partnerships with PSAAC that should build its reputation as an arbiter of best practices in airborne law enforcement.


That reputation will grow even more if the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon follow through on plans to require police aviation units receiving surplus military aircraft to adopt certification standards swiftly.

The decision by insurer QBE North America to back the police aviation standards “was a big step, certainly, for PSAAC,” said Jim DiGiovanna, president of the accreditation commission and a driving force in its creation. “It was a huge step in the insurer underwriting business.” (DiGiovanna currently works for QBE as a loss-prevention specialist, or auditor of risk exposure among the insurer’s clients.)

DiGiovanna and other safety advocates inside and outside ALEA have long pushed insurance companies to provide incentives for their helicopter clients to improve safety through training and accreditation. The typical response has been that the insurance market was too competitive to charge higher premiums to clients who didn’t improve safety.

“QBE is the first to step up,” said DiGiovanna, who will be taking over as PSAAC’s full-time executive director and CEO after ALEA Expo 2015 this month. “The difference here is that they recognized that, instead of offering discounted premiums, they would be willing to pay a client’s cost of accreditation, particularly for renewing clients.”

QBE now supports PSAAC as the official accreditation authority for the airborne law enforcement community. PSAAC in turn recognizes QBE as an official sponsor of its Standards for Law Enforcement Aviation Units. QBE North America is part of QBE Insurance Group Limited, which is headquartered in Sydney, Australia and operates out of 38 countries around the globe.

ARGUS International also is supporting PSAAC as the official accreditation authority for airborne law enforcement. ARGUS’ PRISM unit is aligning its SMS for Law Enforcement program to ensure its clients that use it will meet PSAAC’s standards.

ARGUS is a specialized aviation services company; PRISM is a leader in SMS and certification services for fixed- and rotary-wing operators.

ALEA leaders in the mid-2000s envisioned establishing a certification standard for police aviation units. They launched the effort to create that accreditation function in the 2007 timeframe.

“It was the worst time you could ever think of,” said Don Roby, a longtime ALEA member and currently the organization’s training program manager. “Just when the economy tanks.”

But the work continues to pay off. The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, impressed by PSAAC’s work, is directing its personnel to tell police agencies requesting surplus military aircraft that they must provide plans for training their staffs to standards and accreditations before they can take possession of their birds.

Edward Case, that agency’s vice director, in November said PSAAC’s standards “could be very useful in ensuring that aircraft” distributed by the agency “are operated safely.”

“The word is getting out,” DiGiovanna said.

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