At a news conference today held atop the Air Support Division’s heliport, Captain Mike Williams, Commanding Officer of Air Support Division, accompanied by Deputy Chief Richard Roupoli, Commanding Officer of Special Operations Bureau, stated to the media the growing problem of people pointing lasers inside the cockpits of LAPD helicopters and commercial airliners.
“This is a problem that affects LAPD helicopters and commercial aviation. A laser beam shot into a cockpit is illegal, causes temporary blindness to the air crew, causing disorientation and can lead to a possible crash,” said Captain Williams.
On January 19, 2008, while on patrol in Operation Central Bureau, Pilot Sean Malachi experienced severe pain in both eyes when a person on the ground pointed a laser into his cockpit. “The laser beam shot takes you by surprise,” said Officer Malachi. He alerted ground units to the location where the laser beam had originated. Officers were able to locate several suspects while conducting
their investigation. No arrests were made in this instance. “What was most shocking,” said Captain Williams, “was that this was an adult and not a child.” However parents should ensure that their children are not misusing laser pointing devices and pointing them at aircrafts.
On a weekly basis, Air Support Division is asked by LAX and Burbank airport towers to investigate reports of lasers being directed into the cockpits of aircrafts that are landing at those airports.
On at least of two of those instances, suspects have been arrested and successfully prosecuted for felony
violations of section 247.5 PC. Defendants who are found guilty of this offense face imprisonment of up to three years, and or a $2,000 fine.
Between 1990 and 2005, there have been more than 400 incidents of laser directed at aircraft within the United States.
“Air Support Division is experiencing this on a weekly basis. So far there have been no major reported incidents where the crew was totally incapacitated, but it is a matter of time,” said Captain Williams.