Grantee examines use of police helicopters in Los Angeles

After being awakened repeatedly in the middle of the night by the Los Angeles Police Department’s helicopters, Capital & Main reporter Angelika Albaladejo set out to learn if the public safety value of these aerial patrols is worth the costs incurred and harms inflicted. With support from the Fund, Albaladejo spent more than six months requesting records from law enforcement agencies, sifting through city spending records and talking with experts and affected community members. Albaladejo’s reporting, published by Capital & Main and Mother Jones and republished in several other outlets, found that there is little evidence that the helicopters help fight crime, and showed that many aerial patrols disproportionately disturb low-income people. She found that police claims of aerial patrol effectiveness rely mainly on studies conducted more than 50 years ago, whose value was dubious even then. Albaladejo’s findings are being further explored in an ongoing academic study at UCLA and an audit proposed by newly elected Los Angeles Controller Kenneth Mejia.