Additional integration of less lethal force options and illumination tools
by PoliceOne.com Columnist Major Steve Ijames
Sponsored by TASER
In one of my earlier PoliceOne articles , I wrote about “seeing the Light” through the integration of less lethal force concepts and high tech illumination devices, and the awesome Gladius that is my constant companion during police adventures both here and abroad. I took a walk down memory lane and fondly recalled the FTO lessons learned concerning the role of the police flashlight during officer/subject interactions, the critical issue being that it didn’t matter whether it was day or night; when you conducted police business you carried your flashlight. Not in a ring on your belt, but grasped “weak hand” behind the head, body resting on your shoulder. It was explained to me in no uncertain terms that when talking with a “person of interest”, the focus would be on:
- Maintaining the reactionary gap.
- Blading the body gun side away.
- Keeping the flashlight “shoulder-ready”.
Should the interaction move to a self defense situation, I would:
- Shine the light directly in his eyes as a diversion.
- Step to the closed side of the advance.
- Strike the advancing attacker across the collar bone with the metal flashlight body.
The technique served me well on numerous occasions, but it also had one inherent flaw; in order to be applied, the attacker had to be within intimate contact range. If the collar bone strike put him down, life was good. If it didn’t, things could get complicated in a hurry.
During the same time frame (1979-84) we also carried CN based Chemical MaceTM. The product didn’t work on everyone-especially those who were intoxicated, self medicated, or mentally ill--but it did provide a “stand off” and for the reasons outlined above, that was clearly a good thing.
Likewise, I never seemed to have my mace in my hand when I needed it. If only I could have had the benefit of both devices in one package. Always in my hand. Always at the ready.
Fast forward twenty years, and enter the TigerLight®.
The integration of a chemical agent with a flashlight was nothing new. In 1970, complaints concerning the effectiveness of CN-based Chemical MaceTM led an Ohio entrepreneur to develop a pepper spray/flashlight combination that he called the Nebulizer. The pepper spray as an alternative to CN idea was born out of the successful stops that mail carriers had reported using their USPS issued HaltTM (OC-based) against vicious dogs.
Though clearly innovative, the product was ultimately a commercial failure. The TigerLight® engineers took the basic concept, and improved it dramatically. Their design begins life as an extremely high quality flash light, with factory specifications outlined as follows:
- Length: 11 inches
- Weight: 23 ounces
- Color: Black Type III Anodize
- Max Run Time: 1.1 hours
- Switch Actuation Force: 3 pounds, +/- 1 pound
- Battery: 7.5 Volt max. NiMH (no memory)
- Lamp: Halogen
- Charge Time: 10 Hours (with optional charger)
- Chemical agent: Agency preference-2 oz units available from the manufacturer
- Effective Range: 3 to 15 feet, depending on product and spray type (stream, cone, fog)
The manufacturer then added the capability of projecting the chemical agent at a 90-degree angle from the aluminum body, following the depression of the actuator located at the non-illumination end. This configuration differed significantly from the Nebulizer, which projected the spray from behind and in line with the beam of light. The inherent problem with this was the beam that was theoretically guiding the pepper stream was actually contributing to its potential failure, by causing the suspect to “squint” or at best look away, in natural response to the bright light being shined in his eyes.
Pepper spray lesson 101: No product in the eyes-no effects.
The TigerLight® design not only recognized this, it expanded upon it. Here’s the basic plan. Should a situation deteriorate, the operator immediately points the light directly at the suspects’ eyes. This offers an initial distraction in which the suspect will naturally squint, use his hand to shield his eyes, or lower his head. The beam is then lowered as the flashlight body is rotated forward into the spray position. The suspect will re-focus on the officer as the light is removed, at which time he is immediately and without warning sprayed full face with the chemical agent.
This absolute surprise engagement technique almost always results in direct open eye contamination, followed by the suspect unconsciously gasping and drawing the agent into the upper respiratory tract as well. The end result of all this is a level of assault prevention and resistance control that tops the list of the very best products available to law enforcement today.
Case in point: Consider the 10-month study conducted by good friend and less lethal mentor, LASO Commander Sid Heal. He tracked 500 Deputies who were testing the TigerLight® in both the patrol and custody environments.
The study revealed that the device was, “exceptionally effective at reducing the level of force necessary to gain compliance from combative subjects, in both single and multi-subject scenarios”. Reports involving 146 subjects indicated that the deputies gained compliance from 98% of them, without documenting any serious injuries to the officer or subject.
Several of these reports also suggested that the use of the TigerLight® prevented the situation from escalating to deadly force justification. Additional use-of-force studies (including one completed last month in my own agency) have revealed that the vast majority of OC encounters occur at less than six feet, and that stream sprays are far less effective than cones. The later requires little time or accuracy to contaminate the entire face, where as the stream has to be accurately deployed to ensure the necessary eye contact. Add to that the stream does little if anything in the way of contaminating the upper respiratory tract, which seasoned operators will quickly point out is a major factor in taking the fight out of the fighter.
I am sold on the TigerLight®, and would strongly endorse its use by those in the law enforcement field today. Having been raised in policing with a full sized flashlight as a constant and proven companion, I’m convinced that having the OC and spontaneous impact capability married into a single high tech illumination tool will dramatically improve an officer’s potential for stopping an assaultive subject.
I’m also convinced that the key to this potential is found in the covert nature of the OC deployment itself, which can only be taken advantage of when the product is readily available and “hidden in plain sight”. Is the TigerLight® better than the Gladius? That’s like asking if my Randall #14 is better than my Leatherman. It’s not better, just different. And for that reason you’ll find both in my gear bag 24-7.