with Lindsey J. Bertomen
How FLIR H-Series cameras can augment your in-car video system
FLIR H-Series cameras have real-time recording which can be integrated into an existing recording system
Because the product focus for the month of February is in-car video, I thought I would introduce something that potentially (and significantly) augment capturing video evidence in a patrol car for an array of in-car video systems, rather than focus in on any one specific integrated in-car video system.
During SHOT 2011, I was introduced to the FLIR HS-324, one of the FLIR H-Series Compact Tactical Thermal Night Vision Cameras. This is a handheld thermal imaging camera that allows officers to capture and report evidence in total darkness. It got my attention when I got to play with this tool. I saw the outstanding contrast of the images. The FLIR H-Series cameras have real-time recording which can be integrated into an existing recording system.
Viewing the FLIR HS-324 reminded me of an incident when I was on a perimeter after a vehicle pursuit turned into a leg bail. One of the officers from an allied agency had an in car video recording set up. It had an open “video in” plug, which I thought would have been perfect for a handheld camera that the officer could pan within the perimeter area. Back then, I would have liked to have had one of the new HS-324 FLIR cameras. We would have spotted and contained the suspect a lot sooner and one of our officers wouldn’t have gotten injured.
Nowadays, the latest models like the TOUGHBOOK ARBITRATOR™ 360 (which can support up to six cameras) and ICOP 20-20 Vision (whose remote microphone modules are durable and discreet) are capable of 360° recording, which are light years better than the unit to which I am referring. That said, in theory you could plug the FLIR HS-324 into those or any other in-car video system that accepts “multiple ins.”
I teach an online course called Law Enforcement Report Writing — one of the most critical law enforcement skills for career survival. I use YouTube videos and attempt to drive home the idea of perspective. I want my students to be able to describe their perspective and include in their reports where the witnesses were located when they viewed a scene. The idea of having an additional recorded perspective using an H-Series FLIR really communicates material in court.
The H-Series for takes four rechargeable AA batteries, which gives it approximately five hours of run time. This is more than sufficient for almost any incident. Additionally, it will run off of AC and vehicle power. It captures stills in the form of a JPEG, which can be transferred onto SD card. A one-gig card will hold 20,000 images from this device. Their recordings are time stamped with a real-time clock.
A FLIR thermal camera differs from an image intensifier. It is actually useful during daytime operations. For example, in daylight, a thermal camera can distinguish a well camouflaged person against a non-contrasting background. I have used thermal cameras during the daytime and they help with many evidentiary clues, as well as finding suspects. For example, the H Series camera can easily distinguish a recently used vehicle out of a parking lot or a baggie of drugs that came from a suspects shirt pocket. They are surprisingly capable of finding evidence dropped in a foot pursuit, even during the daytime.
Most importantly, the FLIR H-Series products can see in total darkness, a quality that distinguishes them from “night vision” devices.
And the FLIR H-Series is compact. It can be worn around the neck like most cameras. It is shock resistant and completely submersible (IP-67, one-meter drop). It will take optional lenses. For reference, a Pelican Storm iM2306 case would be appropriate for trunk storage.
The H-Series Cameras have considerably more clarity than the thermal products I have used in the past. For those who are familiar with them, this particular product is immune to obscurants like smoke and gas. This is because a thermal imaging product does not rely on light in the visible spectrum. It is passive, meaning that no artificial illumination is required. This is also the reason why FLIR has revolutionized this type of tool in combat. Passive systems do not reveal the user when they are attempting to detect someone using image enhancement.
I was in the military when we were issued NVG Image intensification products, which wouldn’t hold a candle (couldn’t resist) to what FLIR has to offer. For example, because of new advancements in filtering, the user has a better contrasting view between the desired image and its background.
The old school stuff was easily fooled by over-saturation. That is, if we knew someone was using image intensification to track us during a training exercise, we would create a situation where we could pop a flare. It didn’t help us much, but it did plenty of visual damage to the OPFOR. The H-Series FLIR Cameras would be unaffected by this tactic.
The H-Series Compact Tactical Thermal Night Vision Camera has a startup that I estimate was about two to three seconds. It has simplified buttons. It can integrate into existing in-car video systems. It is cost effective and rugged enough to put a few of them out in a shift. I recommend the FLIR HS-324 for everyday patrol use. It is affordable for the small agency and will improve evidence collection and suspect apprehension.