Lea Co. Sheriff's Department Using Plane To Aid in Law Enforcement

By Abby Reed
NewsWest 9

LEA COUNTY, N.M. - Airborne and on patrol. Deputies with the Lea County Sheriff's Department can now take to the skies to take down criminals.

"Airplanes save lives, that's just the bottom line," Sheriff Rod Coffman, said.

Coffman says saving lives isn't all his department's new Cessna aircraft can do.  He says it can be used to track down missing people and scope out potential crimes. It can also be used to aid firefighters with managing grass fires.

"Lea County is 5,000 square miles, and that's a lot of area that just can't be patrolled on the ground," Coffman said.

Kyle Armstrong is the plane's pilot and says he enjoys taking to the skies with the Sheriff's Department.

"It's the kind of flying that you don't get to do every day. I mean, you get to do more low level things, there's a lot more work and it helps to broaden my skill level," Armstrong said.

Armstrong has lived in Lea County for most of his life. He says knowing this plane is available to help citizens, including his own family, brings him peace of mind.

"I have children that live here, and if something were to happen, and we need to get to them or get them out of a situation, I have total faith in the airplane," Armstrong said.

Coffman says the plane was purchased with seized drug monies and private donations.  A small price, he says, for the added security and comfort it provides to the county.

"The airplane is indispensable, there's just no other means that will substitute that, so it's a great asset for the county and I think it'll be tremendous asset for the Sheriff's Department and the citizens as a whole," Coffman said.