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Council to Consider High Tech Camera for Police Helicopters

MX-10 unit would cost the city up to $420,000

Published on Sunday, April 19, 2020 | 5:53 pm
Image Courtesy WESCAM Website

The Pasadena Police Department is seeking authority to acquire a new infra-red camera system from Wescam USA, a division of Canada-based Wescam, for use by its police helicopter.

Wescam provides airborne surveillance and reconnaissance systems for both military and public safety agencies, among other services.

According to a city staff report, the MX-10 camera will cost the city up to $420,000 to acquire.

Once installed, the system is expected to enhance the capability of the Pasadena Police Air Operations Section to perform aviation support for ground officers and first responders.

The air operations section operates five patrol helicopters seven days a week, providing a much needed safety barrier for police officers and other first responders, according to a Pasadena Police Department report.

Aside from Pasadena, the unit also provides aerial support to the Foothill Air Support Team (FAST) and to Pasadena’s nearby cities, Glendale and Burbank. The helicopters patrol approximately 170 square miles of coverage in support of about 12 partner agencies in Pasadena and in the other cities.

Pasadena flight crews are also frequently tasked with assisting other county, state and federal agencies in support of homeland security missions, infrastructure inspections, and critical incident planning, the report said.

Pasadena patrol helicopters are currently equipped with the FLIR 8000/8500 analog IR camera system, purchased or acquired since the early 2000s, according to the report. It also said the police department spends an average of $40,000 in annual maintenance, with components for cameras that “often fail due to age, corrosion, and long-term use.”

The FLIR cameras are also described as “low definition” and have become antiquated with the arrival of new high-definition fully digital camera systems, the report said.

The report said the Pasadena Police Department is recommending the MX-10 camera system after reaching out to the city of Austin, Texas, whose police department acquired the system in 2019 for a low bid award, which Wescam USA has agreed to extend as well to Pasadena.

“As such, staff recommends purchasing the camera system utilizing Austin Police Department’s (Air Enforcement Unit) bidding process,” the report said. “It is in the City’s best interest as it reduces the amount of time and resources necessary to take delivery of new equipment. From a response standpoint, the MX-10 camera system will improve situational awareness, while providing better interoperability and safety amongst first responders. From a proactive standpoint, the MX-10 camera will be utilized to provide security and proactively secure infrastructure sites more effectively and efficiently.”

The report said no vendors of the same type of airborne cameras are located in Pasadena.

The Pasadena City Council is expected to approve the acquisition and authorize City Manager Steve Mermell to proceed with the contract during its virtual meeting on Monday.

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