The authorized funding aims to help "combat the violent crime plaguing our community, assist in large-scale emergency situations, and help locate missing people," the sheriff's office said.
Sheriff Tom Dart said Chicago police and the sheriff's office currently share two helicopters that are often out of service.
"Helicopters are a game changer, particularly in tracking carjackers and coordinating emergency response to major incidents," Sheriff Dart said. "Having a helicopter monitor carjacking offenders from the sky increases the chances of the offender being caught. Additionally, the helicopter helps avoid potentially dangerous pursuits, which reduces the chances of innocent civilians being killed or hurt by a fleeing offender."
Now, $11.4 million are being allocated for the new helicopter and related equipment. The money is from reserves that will be carried forward from funds unutilized in the current fiscal year, officials said. The sheriff's office has also secured a $2.5 million federal Urban Areas Security Initative grant.
While Cook County is among the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, its helicopter fleet lags far behind other large urban areas, the sheriff's office said. The Los Angeles metropolitan area has 35 police helicopters and the New York City Police Department has recently purchased two additional helicopters, increasing their fleet to nine.
"This is an incredibly important investment by the county," Sheriff Dart said. "I appreciate the County Board realizing how important of an asset this is to the Sheriff's Office and am grateful they allocated the financial resources necessary to help protect the safety and security of Cook County residents."
The final cost for leasing or purchasing a helicopter will be determined during the process, the sheriff's office said. They hope to have the helicopter operational by late summer or early fall of 2023.