PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office aviation unit has one mission in mind: Get the bad guys.
It is their goal, pure and simple. And, it is a job they love. Ask any of the flier dedicated pilots in the unit, and they’ll tell you with overwhelming certainty, they have passion for what they do.
They are the eyes in the sky in Pasco County, some of the very best in the business. This is not just a career for them; it is their heart and soul each and every day.
“It’s the best job in the world,” Chief Pilot John Perez said. Perez is a veteran with the sheriff’s office who has served and protected for nearly three decades.
“This is my office,” he tells News Channel 8, as we take to the air to see what the pilots encounter on patrol. “This area is growing so much. We can go places that others can’t. We can see things. It’s a team effort, all of us a team working together.”
The team recently encountered a samurai sword-wielding man who wanted to harm law enforcement officers and himself. Chief Pilot Perez and his team tracked the man so that officers on the ground could take him into custody safely. “We could see everything,” Perez said. “It’s a great feeling to be able to help from up here.”
The aviation unit has four pilots and four helicopters. They work all day and all night, ready to answer any call for service.
“It really is the best job in the world. I love it here. There’s no place I’d rather be,” Perez said.
The aviation unit works closely with Cpl. John Rux and the K-9 unit, which currently has 17 dogs. And, because the county is growing so quickly, both of these units of law enforcement are constantly busy due to the rural nature of Pasco geography.
It is a marriage of sorts between the hard-working members of law enforcement here, including aviation, K-9 and patrol crews. Pasco Captain James Steffans says, “This is all about teamwork. It is the perfect team. But, we play for real and we don’t get a timeout or redo. These guys work hard day in and day out. And, the bad guys are desperate.”