Aesthetic enforcement

Some of the most beautiful photos of London come from flying policemen

March 19, 2014
March 19, 2014
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St Paul’s Cathedral from a London police helicopter.(@mpsinthesky)

London’s Metropolitan Police Service operates three EC145 helicopters in its air support unit (ASU). On Jan. 3, 2012, the unit joined Twitter.

Since then, the ASU has amassed nearly 80,000 followers and tweeted some spectacular aerial shots of London, such as this one of Canary Wharf, a financial district, on a foggy day. It went viral.

Pilots take photos on their smartphones while shuttling between calls, and tweet them from the same devices.

There is an Instagram account too. But naturally, the Met, as the police force is known, doesn’t put pilots in the sky just to take nice pictures. The police helicopters’ main jobs include helping find suspects, ferrying police dogs around, pursuing vehicles, and more. Jobs they take seriously, with the occasional dash of humor:

So why did the Met feel the need to put its helicopters on Twitter? Part of its public outreach. The Met wanted Londoners to know that the helicopter overhead was a police helicopter, and why it’s there. Most tweets don’t have photos but are simple and fact-based like this one: 

But it’s also to get people to stop complaining about the racket overhead. As a result of the Twitter account, noise complaints due to the helicopters are down 90%, a Met spokesman, Alex Fedorcio, told Quartz. The account has been more successful than the department expected. Still, going viral is not something the Met tried to do, Fedorcio said. It’s just a happy bonus.

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