The 1978 era model of the police helicopter appears as a light helicopter with exposed rear framework. The helicopter takes a rather compact appearance with a small bubble-canopy. The helicopter takes the appearance of a 1953 Bell 47 helicopter, particularly the Model G. The helicopter is seen with large blue skids. While the helicopter lacks any clear sign of a livery, it bears the word "Police" underneath. It also bears a search light (which can come on at any random moment), as well as an invisible turret which will occasionally shoot the player.
The 2006 era model of the helicopter gains a complete restoration from the 1978 era. Retaining its purpose, the helicopter is now based on a Bell 206B JetRanger, particularly the 1975 and 1989 models (the latter seen apparent in the front windows). The helicopter has side doors and a full NYPD livery, primarily colored blue.
The helicopter shares the same performance in both eras, however the behavior of the helicopter can vary depending on the situation. In normal circumstances, the police helicopter will spawn after killing numerous police officers. It may also spawn when the player has lost all felony, and suddenly commits another crime, although this is a rare occurrence.
When arrived, the helicopter typically glides around corners, following a very strict pattern, typically roads. It does not yaw, but instead glides, almost rolling, when cornering. The helicopter will hover a few hundred feet away from the player when responding, and will then move towards the player if they begin to shoot or carry on shooting. From this point, it will start shooting its turret at the player.
Helicopters are relatively durable. While very weak to hand guns and shotguns, it will take significantly longer to shoot it down with rifles. The helicopter is usually plummeted into smoke with one shot of a RPG, although it usually persists shooting at the player for several more minutes. When a helicopter loses control, it usually swerves and yaws, before hitting the ground or another object, and breaking into pieces. In both eras, the boom of the helicopter will break off. The pilot and co-pilot of the helicopter seen in the 1978 era model will instantly disappear once the helicopter hits the ground. The tinted windows in the 2006 model mean there is no pilot/co-pilot inside the helicopter.
While the helicopter usually only spawns when the player is wanted, it does have 1 common spawn location. It will sometimes spawn on top of the roof of a building on the east coast of Manhattan, on the edge of the East River, just north of the Manhattan Bridge. There is a raised helipad in the south-west corner of the building's roof top. It cannot be accessed, but can be destroyed.