By far, the fastest growing threat to law enforcement aircraft are lasers. In recent years and especially in recent months the incidence of an aircraft being hit by a laser has increased dramatically. There have been some reports of pilot injuries but fortunately there have been no reports that these injuries have affected the ability to control an aircraft. Fortunately, prosecutors and judges have realized the grave danger posed by these lasers and are imposing more severe penalties. In just the past few months, several individuals have been sentenced to federal jail time for laser offenses.
Patrol officers can help prevent or reduce the potential for ground based threats by taking a proactive and aggressive approach to any of these types of calls, especially if it is thought that aircraft are being targeted. If ground units believe there is the possibility of a weapon being used at a scene, relay this information to the responding airborne unit so that they can develop their own tactics and strategies for dealing with that threat.
Although the idea of flight crews strapping on Kevlar vests as part of their safety equipment is remote, if there are many more incidents like in Virginia that might just become a reality!