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Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office provides update on air support unit

Sheriff Manny Gonzales III briefs the media on the future of the Metro Air Support Unit
Gino Gutierrez
Sheriff Manny Gonzales III briefs the media on the future of the Metro Air Support Unit

After last month’s deadly helicopter crash that took the lives of four first responders, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office leaders gathered Wednesday morning to discuss the future of Metro Air Support Unit.

Sheriff Manny Gonzales III said the loss of the four first responders is still fresh in the minds of the department, but in the time since the crash, they have established a new chain of command in their air unit.

This new command structure will allow the department to start a comprehensive plan to move forward with the unit.

“I want to let everyone know that we have one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse programs in the whole world. Not only do we serve as a law enforcement service, but also as a search and rescue and wildland firefighting.”

It’s this type of versatility that Gonzales says allowed the department to provide assistance in many different forms around the state. Gonzales said that for the department to not continue these services to the state would be “devastating”.

In the background during the press conference was a video loop that played footage of the air unit assisting in fire rescue missions.

It was also announced at this press conference that Sheriff’s Office leadership would be making a trip to San Diego in two weeks.

While there, they will visit with the San Diego Sheriff’s Office and discuss their aerial support unit.

The reason they choose to visit this specific department according to Gonzales is due to the fact that their air platform best resembles the one used by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

“They were willing to meet with us on every level. From my level down to the line level. So we’re taking our chain of command and a host of other people to go with us to evaluate their standard operating guidelines, their standard operating procedures and to take away the information we need so that we can cultivate our program to become a better program than we had before.”

In the aftermath of the crash, the sheriff’s office has not run any flight missions, and when asked if this was due in part to the loss of a pilot in the crash, Gonzales said that was part of the reason, and that they are currently seeing if anyone in the department has an interest in flying.

That person does not have to be a law enforcement officer.

In terms of replacing the helicopter that was lost in the crash, the department will decide on that after the visit to San Diego.

“I think it would be very necessary, that’s part of the trip to San Diego, see what kind of assets they have, see what compliments our program here in Bernalillo County and the needs because of our altitude and make that decision.”

Once the visit in San Diego has concluded, the Sheriff’s Office will hold another press conference to discuss next steps.