Retired Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer and helicopter pilot Jack Schonely will receive the 2017 MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award at the Salute to Excellence dinner on March 8 at the Hilton Anatole Dallas. Schonely dedicated more than three decades of his life to rotorcraft use in police agencies. Serving as a pilot, patrol officer, lecturer and author, Schonely stressed the benefits of helicopters in catching perpetrators.
After earning a degree in criminal justice from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, Schonely began his 33-year-long career as a deputy sheriff in Berks County, Pa. From the very beginning, his goal was to promote the advancement of helicopter use in airborne law enforcement in the U.S. and abroad. He moved to Los Angeles in 1983 to join the LAPD and completed daily police work as well as research on suspect tactics.
While working as a patrol officer, Schonely learned about perimeter containment as a way to detain suspects. He worked as field training officer and then became a K-9 handler with the Metropolitan Division, participating in more than 7,000 high-risk K-9 searches as a primary handler or search team member.
Schonely then moved on to become a tactical flight officer for LAPD’s Air Support Division. His main objective was to coordinate tactical operations from a helicopter that involve foot pursuits and perimeter containments. In 2004, he received the Air Crew of the Year Award at LAPD Air Support. After serving as chief tactical flight officer, he served as a command pilot before retiring in June 2016.
All of Schonely's experience led him to write a book titled Apprehending Fleeing Suspects: Suspect Tactics and Perimeter Containment. Schonely has also published articles in Vertical Magazine, Police Magazine, Air Beat Magazine, Vertical 911 Magazine and Police K-9 Magazine. He is a member of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association.
Starting as early as 1999, Schonely provided training on suspect tactics and perimeter containment to agencies throughout the U.S. and Canada. Some of the agencies included the Airborne Law Enforcement Organization and East Bay Regional Park Police in northern California; Airborne Law Enforcement Association in various states and Canada; Savannah Chatham Metro Police in Georgia; Anderson Police Department in Indiana; and the Braintree Police Department in Massachusetts.
Since 1972, the MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award has been given to a person or organization that has actively supported the advancement of rotorcraft in law enforcement. Last year, Lt. Pat Lawrence received this award for his service and helicopter advocacy in Michigan.