Conquer Darkness: Improve Law Enforcement Officer Safety with Night Vision
Law enforcement officers must worry about a variety of challenges when on the job. Their safety should not be one of them. Night vision and thermal technology can improve both law enforcement officer and civilian safety.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that violent crime perpetrated by people 18 and older peaks between the hours of 8 pm and 10 pm, making this a busy time for law enforcement officers. Committing crime at night or in the early morning has historically had a lot of advantages. Criminals can rely on low or no light conditions to perpetrate their crime and disappear without being seen.
Current methods of pursuing criminals at night include using flashlights. While better than nothing, flashlights have a lot of disadvantages. Law enforcement officers argue that flashlights can only illuminate a small, focused area at any given time, limiting situational awareness. Flashlights are also a massive signal to criminals on a law enforcement officer’s location. Using night vision eliminates law enforcement’s reliance on flashlights, improves situational awareness and stealth for night operations. Night vision offsets any natural advantage that criminals have by committing crimes at night, which means law enforcement can pursue criminals safely and efficiently in the dark.
For SWAT teams and other law enforcement units, executing a mission stealthily is important to ensure success. One of the most common missions that require stealth are raids. In 2015, Vox calculated that 20,000 no-knock raids occur every year. Raids, specifically no-knock raids, occur in especially dangerous circumstances, sometimes surrounding drugs or human trafficking. It is important to guarantee law enforcement and civilian safety when these raids are being executed. One way to improve safety is by incorporating night vision. By using night vision, SWAT teams and law enforcement can cut the lights to a house or building and enter a location stealthily. Night vision allows for accurate identification of targets and non-targets in the dark, which could result in safer mission outcomes.
Motor Vehicle Safety
According to the CDC, from 2011-2020, 454 law enforcement officers died due to motor vehicle related incidents, or ~33% of all line-of-duty deaths. These incidents resulted from a variety of factors, including not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, and tunnel vision caused by stress. While a lot of these factors could not be prevented with the implementation of night vision and thermal technology, some could be mitigated. Since violent crime often peaks at night, law enforcement must respond to calls in low or no light conditions. Adding thermal cameras to police cars could improve law enforcement’s ability to identify hazards on the road at night and potentially reduce accidents.
Beyond the potential for reducing motor vehicle accidents, having thermals on your vehicle’s dashboard has a lot of other advantages. At a traffic stop, thermals can potentially identify concealed weapons or suspects hiding in the car or neighboring vegetation. This extra information can go a long way in ensuring law enforcement safety.
Night vision and thermal technology are invaluable tools for law enforcement officers. Not only can they potentially improve law enforcement officer safety, but civilian safety as well.