Jen Potocki honored for tactical flight skills

Jen Potocki has been named the 2017 Tactical Flight Officer of the Year by the Airborne Law Enforcement Association.

A Delaware State Police senior corporal, the 36-year-old lives in Milford and has been a state police officer for 14 years. She grew up in southern New Jersey with dreams of being a cop and obtained a degree in criminal justice from Alvernia University in Reading, Pa. While in college, she interned with the state police here and was offered a job upon graduation.

ALEA selected her out of 3,000 worldwide members after she was nominated by DSP Pilot William White.

Potocki spent eight years as a police officer, then began paramedic training. She spent time on the ground with county paramedics before moving to the state police paramedic’s primary vehicle – a helicopter. In June 2015, the DSP sent her to Los Angeles for a week of tactical flight officer school with the Los Angeles Police Department. There, Potocki honed her skills on helicopter equipment, including the Forward Looking Infrared Radiometer, or FLIR, a camera that detects temperatures and interprets them through color.

“I learned a lot about tactics for searching, like where to set officers up on a perimeter and how the temperatures transfer,” Potocki said. “I can’t look through walls, but if someone’s in a shed and it’s a metal wall, I might be able to see the heat being transferred through the wall.”

The DSP has four helicopters. Two are always in service and operate out of hangars in Georgetown and Middletown. When a helicopter is in operation, Potocki, as the tactical flight officer, and the pilot are the only people on board. Her job is twofold, both medical and tactical, but saving lives is always the first priority.

“Last summer, a lady on jet ski got run over by a boat and cut up by the propeller in Ocean City, Md.,” she said. “Their [helicopter] was out of service so we transported her. That was memorable because she probably would have died if we had not been able to transport her.”

Potocki said an incident near Bridgeville was her proudest moment as a tactical officer, when she and her pilot were called to search for potentially armed suspects in a domestic incident.

“We were on scene for about 45 minutes before we found them, a half mile away in the woods. A lot of times FLIR will show deer, and since you can’t see their features or shape, you don’t want to send your officers out there for nothing. So we probably circled for 15 minutes before I sent the officers out, and we ended up getting two [suspects] at one time.”

“There are a lot of things that show she’s doing her job well, and to a higher standard than many,” said ALEA CEO Dan Schwarzbach. The Airborne Law Enforcement Association is headquartered in Frederick, Md.

Potocki will receive the reward later this month at the ALEA’s annual conference in Reno, Nev.