Polk sheriff set to purchase new helicopter and retire an old one

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office will receive a new $1.9 million helicopter to replace an aging helicopter that will be retired by the agency, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. 

Most missions for the aviation unit are to assist law enforcement units on the ground, typically helping in searches for fugitives or missing persons.

“Our mission is to observe and report because that is what we do,” said Lt. Paul Wright, who oversees several law enforcement units housed at the Bartow Air Base. “We’re here to help patrol, Help the units on the ground by being that eye in the sky.”

One of the Polk County Sheriff's Office's Robinson R66 helicopters at the Bartow Air Base. The department received permission from the Polk County Commission in December to retire an old helicopter in favor of a new Robinson R66.

When he interacts with the pilots, Wright said, their most rewarding trips are those taken to locate missing people, who are often among Polk County’s youngest and oldest residents.

“Probably one of the most fulfilling missions they do is the missing person,” he said. “When they can reunite a missing person back to their family − and they locate them and bring them home safe − I would say that is probably the one they talk about the most,” Wright said.

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