Night vision applications for patrol officers
By Chief Tom Dugan
There are many misconceptions surrounding night vision equipment. The most troubling is that the technology is critical only for a few members of the law enforcement community. Nothing could be further from the truth. Night vision technology is a versatile tool, contributing significantly to officer safety and mission success under low-light and no-light conditions. Certain uses – such as search and rescue, narcotics and SWAT operations – generally will come to mind first. However, considering only those applications is seriously underestimating night vision's potential.
This article is the first in a series that will address the many uses of night vision technology for law enforcement. Fittingly, this article begins with the basics: night vision applications for the patrol officer.
Most problem areas on anyone’s beat are in the dark, shadowy areas that provide cover to illegal activities. Alleyways, abandoned buildings, public parks and recreational areas, parking lots and darkened street corners are the most common of these in urban areas; in more rural locations, forests and large expanses of private property provide challenges.
In particular, night vision provides a safer and more effective method of building entry. From conducting a routine patrol to responding to an active shooter scenario, officers can enter and navigate a building without white light. This gives the officer the ability to move stealthily; maintain tactical advantage; prevent their light from announcing their presence; and transition to white light when it is tactically feasible. Moreover, night vision allows officers to cut out the lights or power in a building to slow down suspects while maintaining their own vision. Without night vision, suspects usually either have to wait for their vision to adjust or give themselves away, stumbling and running into obstacles as they flee.
|Night vision also can provide a unique method of overcoming the cover that tinted glass provides, enabling officers to see through, even in dark areas. Ambient light coming in through a vehicle’s windshield, lights on the dashboard or even a lit cigarette is enough for a night vision unit to function. This night vision capability significantly increases an officer’s ability to safely monitor suspicious individuals and activities occurring in a vehicle or other structure with tinted glass.
Understanding the tools and technology available to law enforcement is a key step to safety and mission accomplishment. Any tool that law enforcement can leverage to put the odds in their favor rather than the suspect’s is a vital tool.
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