The Marine & Helicopter Unit of the Department is home to a group of highly motivated and technically trained personnel. The unit utilizes many types of specialized equipment to complete their required tasks. The Unit is broken into two (2) distinct operations: Marine Operations and Helicopter Operations.
Marine Operations personnel are responsible for all bodies of water within the City of Chicago. This includes 80 square miles of Lake Michigan, 27 miles of Lake Michigan shore line, 38 miles of Chicago River system, Wolf Lake, Lake Calumet and various ponds and lagoons throughout the City. The City of Chicago is home to the largest municipal harbor system in the United States with close to 5,100 slips and moorings, there are 100,000 registered boaters in the state and there is anticipation for the addition of other harbors in Chicago.
To complete their mission Marine Operations personnel use seven (7) patrol/rescue boats and a state of the art dive response truck for land based assignments. Marine Operations personnel (all of whom are public safety divers) are the first responders to any maritime incident. Marine Operations personnel have three areas of responsibility. They are Search, Rescue, Recovery Operations, Law Enforcement and Homeland Security. Obviously public education on maritime issues and public relations plays a role regularly in the aforementioned areas. These incidents include everything from person(s) in the water to commercial airline crashes. Law Enforcement personnel assigned to Marine Operations are responsible for enforcing state statues, City ordinances and Chicago Park District ordinances. Personnel are also responsible for dignitary security issues, special details, and assignment to City sponsored special events, and recently, recording and photographing evidence. Marine Operations personnel spend a large portion of their tour conducting homeland security checks and patrols. Several of the highest threat assessed targets within the City are on or surrounded by water. Lake Michigan is home to several major events each year including the Air & Water Show, July 3rd fireworks and Venetian night. These events draw millions of spectators to the lakefront each year. Marine Operations personnel are trained as divers, in heavy weapon usage, Stingray remote Operations, Stedi-eye night vision systems, AED & first aid skills as well as other very technical skills.
The Chicago Police Department has recently begun phasing in helicopter operations with the use of the Department’s two helicopters that will be operational by the end of 2008. The focus of these aircraft is to provide an additional resource to ground units. The use of Helicopters as resources enhance the capabilities of first responders through the deterrence and prevention of crime, by hardening of targets through focused aerial patrol, increasing response time – by quickly delivering personnel and equipment to the incident scene, and assisting in command and control by outfitting the aircraft with necessary equipment to provide critical communications across multiple jurisdictions. Both helicopters play a large role in the homeland security field by having the ability to conduct aerial reconnaissance of target locations, and evaluating demonstrations and other large events. Both Helicopters host a myriad of very technical equipment.
Missions will be designed to coincide with DOC Deployment Areas and to enhance homeland security by using aerial surveillance to monitor many critical facilities that exist in both Chicago and throughout Cook County, Illinois.
A Task Force has been formed with the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department, which will allow the Department’s helicopters to become a City and County resource to be used by both agencies. Chicago and Cook County encompass over 975 square miles made up of over 125 municipalities that are home for over 5 million citizens of Cook County.