By Joe King, [email protected]

PSA Co-founder Dwight Burnett and Founder Jim Hickman stand in front of the new Sevier County Sheriff's Department helicopter. (The Herald/ Joe King)

PSA Co-founder Dwight Burnett and Founder Jim Hickman stand in front of the new Sevier County Sheriff’s Department helicopter. (The Herald/ Joe King)

Public Safety Aviation, a public private partnership, held a presentation conference to highlight the benefits of the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department new helicopter patrol Feb. 22.

Obtained through private funding, PSA has provided a state of the art Robinson helicopter to the county’s assets. Equipped with a thermal camera, spot light, and a slew of other features, the helicopter is slated to improve many aspects of local law enforcement.

“This helicopter will benefit the sheriff’s department in respect to response times and officer safety,” said Sevier County Sheriff Ron Seals.

The cost of the helicopter is estimated at $500,000,00.

Currently, there are two pilots for the unit, PSA Founder Jim Hickman and Co-founder Dwight Burnett.

Jim HIckman gives a presentation regarding the benefits a helicopter can provide to law enforcement. (The Herald/ Joe King)

Jim HIckman gives a presentation regarding the benefits a helicopter can provide to law enforcement. (The Herald/ Joe King)

“The concept is we provide aviation capabilities to law enforcement and other organizations who couldn’t otherwise afford it,” Burnett said. “This is about two years in the making.”

Burnett said although PSA has had requests from other cities such as Chattanooga to provide a similar service, Sevier County will remain their focus.

During the presentation, Hickman explained the numerous benefits a helicopter can bring to local law enforcement. These benefits included search and rescue, tracking a fleeing suspect, and locating the source of a fire.

“In the 102 training calls with this helicopter we were the first on the scene in 82 percent of the incidents,” he said. “In the first 17 shifts, just 37 hours, we were able to do everything from spot two DUI drivers to a loose horse on Veterans Boulevard.”

Hickman said the helicopter has a three minute response to 92 percent of Sevier County. He added the visibility aspect of the vehicle not only acts as a deterrent for potential criminals, but also provides a means for residents to see law enforcement is on the lookout.

“I grew up in aviation and worked in public safety most of my life,” he said. “In the changes I saw in aviation and aircrafts I saw an opportunity to create very cost effective services.”

Although the helicopter is the first of its kind for Sevier County, the possibly of expanding the program could be a local reality.

“For what I’ve seen today it is impressive,” said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters. “I will discuss the benefits of this helicopter with Sheriff Seals and we will go from there.”

 

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