Patrolling from the sky: An inside look at Saskatoon’s Air Support Unit

Click to play video 'Saskatoon police air support unit at work' Saskatoon police air support unit at work
WATCH ABOVE: Saying they're the fastest law enforcement unit in the province, Saskatoon’s air support team is making a difference. Leena Latafat spent time in the air and has the story – Mar 29, 2016

SASKATOON – Four thousand feet above sea level, the Saskatoon Police Air Support Unit (ASU) plane is an offender’s worst enemy. The Cessna 182 aircraft gives officers a bird’s eye view of Saskatoon and surrounding areas to locate any suspicious activity.

Global’s Leena Latafat had a chance to fly with the unit and get up close and personal with the aircraft. Throughout the two-hour flight, officers went around the city and worked with officers on the ground.

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“You don’t want a murder suspect in your yard,” said Sgt. Wade Bourassa, Saskatoon Police Service pilot.

Raw footage recorded from the aircraft’s camera not only documents incidents, it also helps patrol officers with abductions, fires, armed robberies and other kinds of police pursuits.

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“The teamwork and the communication for the spotter to explain where I need to be, for the camera to see what it needs to see is a bit of a dance,” said Bourassa.

What could take patrol officers several minutes to get to, only takes the ASU seconds. The plane is also equipped with a $300,000 infrared camera that observes suspects and can change its direction by 360 degrees.

If an offender abandons their vehicle and attempts to run and hide, the sensor camera will pick up their location based on body heat.

When asked which three words come to mind when thinking of the air craft, Bourassa says the answer is easy: fast, reliable and useful.

“How we can see things from up above is unbelievable,” said Ryan Beerling, tactical flight officer with the ASU.

An image captured from the air support’s aircraft. Leena Latafat / Global News
“It’s very rewarding. It’s a great feeling to help the guys that are doing  all the hard work on the ground and be that [much] more safe and efficient for the community,” said Beerling.
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The unit has helped locate suspects hiding in backyards, on roofs and even beyond city limits. One of its longest flights was seven hours, searching for a missing woman who was later found.

With the help of the ASU, 1,000 offenders have been located in total and almost 3,000 criminal charges have been laid.

“Really the sky is the limit. Whatever call that we can assist, we’re going to assist on,” added Beerling.