The St. Louis County Police Department has operated an aviation unit since 1971 and the St. Louis City Police started airborne operations in 1996 with a surplus OH58. In 2003, St. Louis City Police were considering shutting down their aviation unit and in addition, St. Louis County drastically cut back airborne operations. Ironically at the same time, the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department was interested in starting an aviation unit. All three agencies were able to sit down and discuss the possibilities of a regional unit. This would help eliminate some of the budget constraints and stop the duplication of effort. In July 2004, the Metro Air Support Unit was formed, with funding and staffing from St. Louis County PD, St. Louis City PD and the St. Charles County Sheriff's Dept. A not for profit foundation was formed as well to assist in funding and building corporate partnerships. The foundation assists in funding equipment that is beyond the scope of the municipal budget.
The regional operation opened the door for Federal and State grants, totaling over 3 million dollars, including the funding for a new MD500E. The Metro Air Support Unit of St. Louis has now been in operation for 5 years and the multi-jurisdictional unit has received a great deal of support from the political forces of all three jurisdictions. The unit now operates six helicopters, 3 MD500Es, 3 OH6s and one Cessna 172. The area covered is 1500 Sq. miles, with a population served of over 1.5 million. As Captain Kurt Frisz of the St. Louis County Police Department and current Airborne Law Enforcement Easter Regional Director states, "the bottom line is that without the regional effort, we would have had to shut down our airborne law enforcement operations like many other jurisdictions."
Obviously, administrations will be challenged to continue to provide exceptional police services with less. By some creative thinking and cooperation, many of these services can be combined in order to save costs yet provide excellent service.