RIDEALONG: LMPD's Air Unit patrols the skies, keeping Louisville - WDRB 41 Louisville News

RIDEALONG: LMPD's Air Unit patrols the skies, keeping Louisville safe

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You may have seen LMPD's chopper flying in the skies before, but what you may not realize is that it flies every single day of the year.

WDRB's Rachel Collier got an exclusive look at the impact LMPD's Air Unit makes.

Hollywood can make anything look cool, especially police chases. Throw in a helicopter and it can look even more intense, but for Tim Wimsatt, similar scenes play out in real life. He is a pilot and a police officer.

"I love my job," Wimsatt said. "I mean, I've always wanted to be a pilot, and I always wanted to be a police officer, so it's the best of both worlds."

LMPD's chopper, known as Air 20, is up for about three hours a day on average. It's called out to assist police on the ground: anything from tracking down missing persons, or suspects on the run. It's also used just like a patrol car, only up in the skies, safeguarding the city from above.

After teen violence broke out by the pedestrian bridge in the spring, Wimsatt paid extra attention to that area.

"We are out there, we're up, and we're always looking," he said. "We can see so much up there, we can cover so much so quickly."

We went up for a routine patrol and saw the city in a new perspective and the pilot has a lot going on. He's talking with air traffic controllers, police on the ground, dispatchers and also watching what is going on below.

"That's what I enjoy, feeling like, if we can catch a bad guy that might have gotten away, whether they're running or in a car or whatever the case might be," said Wimsatt.

Two of the most helpful devices for tracking suspects are on the outside of the helicopter: a spotlight and FLIR, a thermal imaging camera.

"I've had cases where someone may think they're hiding in the bushes or the deck behind the house, but we see them, and we can call the officers on the ground and call them into that location," said Wimsatt.

Wimsatt has been a police officer for 20 years, first as a patrol officer and then as a detective. When he pulls up on a scene -- especially at night -- he's the backup every officer wants.

"That always feels good to have another officer say, 'I appreciate you,' stopping by and checking on me," said Wimsatt.

"The feeling they get, I know, I've had it," said Lt. Brent Routzahn, commander of LMPD's Air Unit. "When the helicopter comes over, you see it light up the whole area and realize, 'I'm not alone, I've got someone here besides this guy (the suspect).'"

There are a handful of pilots that rotate, teaming up at night. The chopper is available 24-7 to assist police down on the ground.

One thing the chopper needs: an upgraded video system to record incidents.

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