Manned Aviation

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), concluded the Law Enforcement Aviation Technology Program (LEATP), a 10-year project to identify and evaluate cost-effective alternatives to traditional aviation assets for use in surveillance and other law enforcement operations. NIJ, in cooperation with the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas and The Center for Rural Development (located in Somerset, Ky.) established LEATP in fall 2005 to evaluate the applicability, affordability and frequency of use of various aviation assets by smaller — predominately rural — law enforcement agencies across the United States. The program provided several small and rural agencies with examples of selected aircraft for use in day-to-day operations; in return, the agencies provided NIJ with data that informed the research and analysis.

The program first conducted an analysis of traditional aviation technology used by law enforcement across the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a special report in 2007, Aviation Units in Large Law Enforcement Agencies (available at This report indicates that of agencies with 100 or more sworn personnel, only 201report having an aviation unit. According to the report, “the percent of agencies with aviation units varied depending upon agency type and size. Approximately 75% of the 89 agencies with 1,000 or more sworn officers had aviation units, compared to 6% of agencies with less than 250 sworn officers.” Given these numbers, it is easy to see that hardly any agencies with fewer than 100 sworn officers operate an aviation unit.

You can download the final program report of the NIJ Law Enforcement Aviation Technology Program here.

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National Institute of Justice
Joe Heaps

(202) 305-1554