The department uses it to search for missing people, criminals on the run and mostly, drugs. On Tuesday, his crew along with FOX Charlotte's Morgan Fogarty and Robert Wilder, searched for marijuana plants. Fogarty and Wilder had to be deputized to fly. Parker explains, "By you documenting what we did today, you're part of law enforcement today, that's the reason."
Working off tips from the community, they checked about 20 locations. In one hour, they found two homes with marijuana plants growing in the backyard. To protect investigators, the homes and plants couldn't be videotaped.
Parker says, "We've actually been in situations where they'll actually come out and point a gun at ya, they'll actually shoot at you believe it or not."
When pot is spotted, deputies on the ground, who are tracking the chopper, follow up and mark the address. Parker says cameras will be set up to monitor the homes and eventually, arrests will be made. Timing is everything. "Hopefully they don't take it before they get to it," he says.
The chopper was in the air for about seven hours Tuesday. It re-fuels via a mobile gas pump that travels with the ground deputies.
Parker says the county pays $24,000 a year in workers comp insurance to cover the helicopter, but the program is funded primarily through drug forfeiture money. Parker says the helicopter is crucial to Chesterfield County as it battles on in the war against drugs. He says, "If we can take one marijuana plant out of a field, to keep your child from getting it, that's what it's about. That's what we do. That's what we're good at doing."
The Sheriff says the chopper is part of the federal government's 1033 program, or "Surplus Property." That means he's gotta follow strict rules and regs to keep it in the county.