RIPON — Ripon Police Department’s powered parachute was showcased last week in Washington, DC, at Andrews Air Force Base.
Ripon’s First Sergeant and pilot Steve Merchant was asked to present the community’s aviation unit and tell of its successes at the Armed Services open house, U.S. Department of Justice-sponsored, Law Enforcement Aviation Technology Program.
Merchant said the Ripon Police Department had by far been the leader in the use of the powered parachute over any other community nationwide.
“I was at this event speaking to military personnel as well as civilians about the Department of Justice (powered parachute) Aviation Program and the successes we have had in Ripon,” he said.
The Ripon sergeant remembers having fielded a question from someone standing behind him. When he turned around he was surprised to be face to face with a general.
The Aviation Technology Program was established to evaluate the efficacy, affordability and frequency of the utilization of various aviation assets for smaller and predominantly rural law enforcement agencies across the U.S., he said.
“The Ripon Police Department is the only law enforcement agency in California that has been tasked with testing and evaluating the use of the powered parachutes for law enforcement deployment. As pilots involved in this leading edge DOJ technology program, Chief Ed Ormonde and I are often asked to speak to the public and to professionals about our program,” Merchant noted.
The Ripon officer said he was able to speak to thousands of people from all over the world about the technology and the tactics that his department had been testing from aerial observation of potential crime scenes to mutual aid to other departments. Ripon pilots located rafters last year that had been lost on the Stanislaus River.
Merchant added that the powered parachute display captured the interest of countless civilians, children and dedicated military personnel alike.
“For a small fraction of the cost of a traditional aviation program, we have been able to perform critical missions for our community,” he said.
Merchant has been asked to attend a second event on the East Coast, specifically at Andrews Air Force Base, during the next month. All the costs including travel and lodging have been borne by the Department of Justice.