Law Enforcement Short-Haul

Law Enforcement Short-Haul (LESH) is defined as the transport of one or more Department of the Interior (DOI) law enforcement officers externally suspended below a helicopter for a short distance, for the purpose of tactical insertion into or extraction from a crime scene.

park rangers doing safety training
Park rangers participating in LESH training in California.

Short-haul (or STABO) systems were pioneered by the U.S. Army Special Forces and the 1st Marine Division in the late 1960s in Vietnam. The original Army device was a 100-foot rope with a loop tied in the end with a padded canvas seat. Later the system was redeveloped using individual nylon straps and a full body harness to extract small teams from areas where a helicopter could not land. The Marine system, called a Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction System (SPIES), consisted of a system of web straps to accommodate a small team.

In the early 1980s, the technique was adopted and modified by a variety of law enforcement agencies for mountain rescue and law enforcement operations. A large number of military veterans who had been trained in this technique found their way into law enforcement careers; as a result, LESH was often called by its original military names--STABO or SPIES rig.

In the late 1980s, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park adopted a short-haul program to raid widespread marijuana cultivations that were devastating the park. This program continues today under policy waiver, operating in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

By 2007, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park added LESH to its existing SAR short-haul program, using an exclusive-use helicopter under policy waiver. This effort was necessitated by Mexican national drug traffic organizations, which were similarly devastating areas of the park.

In 2009, recognizing the need to reduce risk while effectively inserting and extracting DOI law enforcement officers at an ever increasing number of marijuana cultivation sites on Interior and tribal lands, DOI began development of a law enforcement short-haul policy.