January 23, 2006
L-3's Thermal Eye X100xp Used to Restore Order in New Orleans
L-3 Communications Infrared's camera used by Louisiana State Police to protect the Crescent City
DALLAS - The state of the city of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina has been described in many ways, but none have described it as accurately and succinctly as Lieutenant Duane Schexnayder, SWAT supervisor, who summed it up in just four words.
"It was sheer lawlessness."
That's why one week after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Crescent City, the Louisiana State SWAT unit received three Thermal-Eye X100xp thermal imaging cameras and was dispatched to New Orleans in an effort to restore order in the city. Charged with the task of curbing the looting and protecting residents, the SWAT units sent out "black-out patrols," which used both night vision and thermal imaging units to locate threats long before subjects knew the patrols were there.
"In a city like New Orleans, L-3's thermal imaging camera proved to be a powerful tool, not only for protecting the residents of the city, but also for protecting our officers," Schexnayder said. "Being able to have that sort of advantage over suspicious persons was critical to containing looters and other dangerous suspects."
Blackout patrol element leaders used the Thermal-Eye X100xp from atop buildings and other vantage points to relay intelligence to other SWAT operators. This allowed team members to alter their positions accordingly and approach the subject from a safer position. This ability became increasingly important as the city started to repopulate.
The thermal imaging cameras also allowed team members to distinguish true threats from non-threats. An overworked area sheriff's department asked the SWAT team to investigate a tank breach where some shots that had been fired. Using the Thermal-Eye X100xp, the officers were able to determine that it was not a shotgun that had been fired, rather a propane-operated bird scare device. Using the camera, operators matched the heat signature of the propane blast with the resulting sound. Not only did the cameras help protect the SWAT officers, but they also allowed the sheriff's office to use their ever-decreasing, valuable resources somewhere more effective.
Not only is the unit especially important for officer safety, but its rugged design makes it especially easy to utilize. The camera's impressive range gives operators the ability to identify a subject up to 150 yards away and the unit's small size and rugged design made it easy to store in, and quickly remove from, uniform pockets.
Even though parts of the city are beginning to return to normal, SWAT units still are positioned in the city and utilizing the thermal imaging cameras.
"We're using the heck out of them," Schexnayder said. "And we have yet to really put them through the ringer."