The FBI Uniform Crime Report consistently indicates that the majority of officer involved shootings occur between 18:00 and 02:00 under reduced light or in conditions where no light is present. Human night vision is poor, so we depend heavily on artificial light in conditions with little or no light.
For various reasons, very few agencies issue pistol-mounted lights to every officer. Firearms instructors receive little, if any, instruction in the tactical use of their flashlights, and few departments have any kind of ongoing reduced light firearms or tactical light training. Popow v. Margate mandates that police officers be trained in the conditions they are likely to work under, including conditions of dim or no light. All law officers are likely to encounter reduced light conditions during their shifts, whether it is a dark basement on the day watch or working during the hours of darkness.
Brite-Strike® Training Academy is a division of Brite-Strike Technologies, Inc. (BSTI), a manufacturer of cutting edge LED tactical flashlights for the military and law enforcement. This course has attempted to present a balanced program examining the benefits of handheld and weapon-mounted lights.
Law enforcement agencies are facing challenging times with respect to budget cutbacks and maintaining a high standard of training. As most trainers know, the first thing to be cut back in lean times is instructor training, especially in firearms or other Use of Force related topics. This is usually followed by cutting the training for the troops, unless it is specifically mandated by statute.
Case law has established the need to provide training to officers, but what about the instructors? Other than basic certification, few departments take much interest in providing their instructors with any type of advanced training. Instructor development generally seems to be a concept known only to instructors. Dedicated instructors will always seek out training on their own; however, today’s trimmed back budget may not allow for necessary shift coverage, overtime or the other usual costs of training where travel is required.
Brite-Strike Training Academy has a novel solution to this problem. The academy was formed last year to provide low light and stress inoculation training for local agencies using an old warehouse that is part of the company headquarters.
This was very successful, but it soon became apparent that entire departments could not travel long distances to participate in the training. Brite-Strike Training Academy took a page from the military’s distance learning concept and created their own Distance Learning Program™ with a Tactical Flashlight Instructor course that could be administered completely online.
Several advantages exist with this training format. First, and probably foremost, is that the tuition can be kept at a very reasonable rate as there is much less overhead. The student has almost unlimited flexibility in the training schedule. This is ideal for the instructor who regularly works the midnight shift and has family commitments during the day.
Perhaps one of the best reasons to take this course is that it will never be cancelled due to lack of enrollment. There is nothing more frustrating than enrolling in a program that requires you to travel a considerable distance, booking accommodations in advance and taking vacation time, only to have it cancelled at the last minute, leaving your plans high and dry.
The prospective student completes the enrollment process online by logging on to Brite-Strike’s Web site and paying the enrollment fee by credit card. The enrollment is processed, and students receive a password by e-mail allowing them to log in to the course. Once logged in, they can choose to do it all at once, or chip away at it chapter by chapter. As long as officers have an Internet connection, they can log on and work on the course. Due to the nature of the course, Tactical Flashlight Instructor (TFI) has a few pre-requisites which must be met for enrollment. First, the applicant must be employed in the military, law enforcement or as a bona fide security trainer. They must also be certified as a firearms or defensive tactics instructor, and preferably a Use of Force instructor with several years of experience.
TFI does not teach you how to be an instructor. You will need these skills before you enroll. TFI will provide instructors with topic-specific information and practical exercises that they can adapt to their specific needs or use to develop a standalone program.
This course gives instructors some interesting background on the history of flashlights in law enforcement and how we went from the Kel-Lite to the small, high-powered tactical lights on the market today. It also clears up some of the mystery regarding the difference among the various types of lights on the market today, and the difference between candle power and lumens.
TFI makes a strong statement regarding the importance of your light. Next to your portable radio, it can be argued that your light is the most important piece of equipment you carry. What other tool do you use so much and in such a wide variety of circumstances? Think about it—in the last week, how many times did you use your service weapon? What about your baton, OC or your handcuffs? From finding your keys under the seat, to illuminating a deadly threat, the tactical flashlight is a crucial tool for law enforcement.
The majority of instructors taking this course, especially firearms instructors, will already have a good knowledge-base of flashlight techniques. This most likely began at the academy and was reinforced during instructor training. Along the line, they probably found one method that really worked well for them, and all the rest got placed on the backburner.
Experience has shown that most instructors will teach the techniques they are most comfortable with, which, while not intending to do so, may steer officers away from a technique that could work better for them. This course will reinforce those familiar skill sets and take instructors into flashlight tactics, providing them with the resources to research, develop, and write or upgrade a true tactical light training program for their agency.
Many instructors in smaller agencies wear multiple hats and have other duties that prevent them from devoting as much time as they would like to new course development. TFI is one practical solution to this problem. For the instructor looking for supporting documents to implement or augment a flashlight training program, TFI provides a wealth of material.
You know the importance of carrying a light. You also know that there are still officers out there, especially on the day shift, who don’t carry a light because they “don’t work at night.” To help the instructor address this, one chapter, titled “Why Carry a Light,” deals exclusively with this subject. How many officers do you know who have bailed out of their cruiser to chase a suspect and left their light in the console charger in their haste? The course makes a strong case for establishing a policy for equipping every officer with a small, high intensity light which can be carried in a pocket or on a duty belt.
One of the most interesting points the course makes is about how humans may be legally blind in the dark. When you consider how poor our vision is upon entering a dark building from bright sunlight, it becomes apparent why having a light is so important. The course also takes a look at possible legal reasons why you should be teaching your officers how to better use their lights. Several court cases are cited which illustrate why it is necessary to train officers to shoot in low light conditions.
Because humans have poor night vision, it is logical to assume that the use of a flashlight in this equation is a given fact. The course also looks at the other side of the topic, which suggests that we may want to use our lights judiciously to avoid destroying our night vision. This section points out how it can be a tactical advantage to keep your light off and not give away your position.
TFI takes instructors through the benefits of using a light for more than the conventional uses like navigation, illumination, location, evaluation and sighting. These aspects are important, but the course gets instructors to see that modern tactical flashlights can be used for much more. High intensity LED lights, especially those rated at more than 150 lumens, can be used to distract and disorient a subject, thus creating a significant tactical advantage. The course goes into the physiological details of how this works and what you can do to optimize this effect.
The course takes instructors through various techniques for shooting with a handheld light, along with the associated advantages and disadvantages. It also addresses the handheld light versus weapon-mounted light debate. It examines the benefits and drawbacks of both, including the need for a proper holster which will accommodate the light mounted on the weapon.
Instructors are urged to look at how shooting with a handheld light adversely affects the average officer’s marksmanship. For a company that makes handheld lights, they present a very balanced view of the benefits that come with using a weapon-mounted light. This information could be very useful if you wanted to make a case for equipping your agency with weapon-mounted lights.
The latest option on high-end tactical lights is the strobe function. TFI goes into considerable detail on the effects which a rapidly flashing light has on a person’s equilibrium and the benefits it may have. It is difficult to understand how a flashing light can produce such different reactions, but the course explains this in a manner you can understand.
This program sets a different course from many others as it takes instructors into using the light to augment their intermediate force options. A tactical light equipped with a strobe function can supplement your OC, hands-on defensive tactics, baton and specialty impact munitions. By the time you finish this course, you will have a new appreciation for the capabilities of your tactical light.
TFI is divided into seven sections with a short review at the end of each. Student instructors must complete a short multiple choice quiz before they can proceed to the next section. The course cautions the user to bookmark each section so they can return directly to where they left off. This is very important because if you forget to follow this direction, you will have to start all over again. Once you complete all the sections, you will be prompted to submit information on how the certificate should be made out and where to send it.
Instructors now also have access to the complete student manual, generic lesson plan and slide show, plus range exercises. This can be very useful for instructors who do not have the time or resources to build a program from scratch. Brite-Strike also offers a $50 discount on the purchase of a Tactical Blue Dot® light to instructors who successfully complete the course. If you take advantage of this option, you get the course for free.
This course is attractively priced and allows instructors to complete it at their own pace. While the distance learning concept may not be applicable for many disciplines, it seems to work well with this one and may become more popular with certain areas of training as the country pulls out of these bleak economic times. For more information on the course or to enroll, visit Brike-Strike’s Web site or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Todd Bailey is the Director of Law Enforcement Training for BSTI and a reserve police officer in Massachusetts. He serves as a law enforcement firearms instructor trainer for the Municipal Police Training Committee and is Vice President & Senior Staff Instructor for the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors’ & Armorers’ Association. He can be contacted at email@example.com.