In more than 20 years of working as an officer with the Portland (Ore.) Police Department, I’ve used a wide variety of flashlights. But for the past 15 months, I’ve used the TigerLight exclusively.
If the TigerLight were nothing more than a flashlight, I would say without hesitation that it is by far the finest, most durable flashlight I’ve used during the course of my career. But the TigerLight is more than just another law enforcement flashlight. The TigerLight provides officers with the ability to respond to an immediate threat with OC spray that is built into the tail of the flashlight tube. This makes the TigerLight a very effective less-lethal weapon.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recently decided to run a test of the TigerLight, issuing the device to some patrol deputies. In 52 incidents involving 146 subjects, the rapid response and multi-subject capability of the TigerLight helped prevent serious injuries to deputies and subjects. The result was a 25-percent decrease in significant force.
My personal experience falls in line with the preliminary findings of the LASD study. I work as an afternoon shift district officer in northeast Portland. Additionally, I am assigned to the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) as a tactical officer.
On patrol, my TigerLight is fixed to my off gun side with a belt clip system. Unlike a standard ring, this clip system, which is available from TigerLight, secures the flashlight to my duty belt when I am running or climbing. This same clip system also lets me affix the light to the rail of my Colt Commando for SERT duties. I’ve used my TigerLight as my primary flashlight on more than 70 SERT activations during the past 15 months.
If you’ve been a police officer for any length of time you’ve been attacked by a subject who thought he could use violence to escape the authority you represent. And in many cases, the attack was a surprise, giving you limited time to react.
Consider this scenario. You get out of your car to talk to a man walking away from a local drug house. It’s night time, so you light him up with your flashlight and start asking him some questions. He seems cooperative. But what you can’t see are the wheels turning and the calculations going on inside his head. He knows he has a warrant, and he knows he’s going away for years when you learn his identity. So he decides to attack you.
In this kind of situation, the TigerLight is a very effective tool. The TigerLight is already in your hand pointed at the subject’s upper chest and eyes. He is blinded by the 375 lumens of illumination that the light produces. This makes it harder for him to launch an effective surprise attack. Then when he does launch his attack, all you have to do is shift down and rotate your wrist to target him with the light’s built-in OC spray. When you take the light out of his eyes, his night vision is temporarily impaired, so he can’t see that you are about to dose him with pepper spray. That means he can’t brace for the effects of the spray.
If you were holding a regular flashlight in the same circumstance, you could respond to the attack in one of two ways: You could use your light as an impact weapon or deploy your OC spray with your other hand. Both are less than great options. Flashlights are not designed to be used as impact weapons, so using a flashlight to strike a suspect can lead to a variety of problems, and it may not be very effective. As for the duty belt OC option, consider that you are holding a flashlight in one hand while drawing your OC spray with your other hand. This can limit your ability to escalate to deadly force if needed. With the TigerLight system, you can deploy OC spray and light up the subject with just one hand. That leaves your gun hand free for deadly force if needed.
The need for a combination flashlight and less-lethal weapon system is readily apparent when you look at FBI statistics. According to the “U.S. Department of Justice—Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report on Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted in 2005,” more than 50,000 officers are assaulted on the job each year. That means that nearly 12 out of every 100 sworn officers in the United States are attacked yearly. And for the seventh year in a row, the largest percentage of assaults on officers occurred from midnight to 2 a.m., when you need a good flashlight.
The TigerLight is not just beneficial to officers who carry it. Its ability to shut down an attacker is also beneficial to the subjects who experience its effects. TigerLight is so effective in stopping an attack that it minimizes the amount of force that officers must use to take subjects into custody. This reduces injury to suspects, violent mentally ill subjects, and out-of-control drunks. Less force per arrest also means fewer lawsuits. The LASD experienced a 43-percent drop in excessive force complaints during the course of its TigerLight study.
National Institute of Justice studies show that OC spray is effective enough to achieve compliance in 85 percent of deployments. In contrast, TigerLight has been shown to achieve compliance in 95 percent of deployments. TigerLight is more effective than belt-carried OC spray because it is already in the officer’s hand at the point of the attack. The OC shot from the TigerLight is also a surprise to most subjects. This means the subject has no warning that the spray is on the way. He cannot hold his breath and cover or close his eyes in an attempt to defeat the pepper spray.
TigerLight has been proven to be effective, so the only question that remains about its use as a police tool is: Can it take a beating and keep working?
Believe me, it can. In 15 months of hard use, I have never even broken a lightbulb in my TigerLight. My battery run time did not diminish even though I exclusively charged my TigerLight from a power supply in my car. I also never had a leak or failure of the OC supply.
As I stated in the beginning of this article, I would recommend the TigerLight even if it were just a flashlight. The aircraft aluminum used to make the main case is strong and light. It’s also water resistant, and the contacts are made with high-quality materials to reduce corrosion problems.
I recently started using the newest version of the TigerLight. So I decided to torture test my older TigerLight. I dropped it 50 times onto cement from a height of eight feet. No problem. Next I turned the light on and left it on. I dropped the TigerLight again from a height of eight feet onto cement over and over. On drop 27, the bulb broke. That was the only damage I could inflict on the working parts of the light or the pepper spray apparatus.
New and Improved
The newest version of the TigerLight has been improved to increase the device’s utility as well as its reliability. The direction of the OC spray nozzle can now be adjusted to better fit the user’s hand. Also, the cover over the OC spray trigger now opens wider to allow easier deployment by an officer who is wearing gloves. In addition, the O ring in the bulb area is now recessed, making it easier to get parts put back together after a battery or bulb change, and the on/off switch has been redesigned, making it less likely the switch cover will peel off with use. Finally, TigerLight users can now choose from two grip designs, and the light tube no longer sports a gold-colored band.
If you are a street officer or sergeant you should take a look at the TigerLight. If you are in management, you should check out this light to see if it can keep your officers safer while reducing your agency’s liability risk.
There is a tremendous amount of information on the TigerLight Website at www.TigerLight.net. By visiting this site, you can review numerous testimonials on how TigerLight helped resolve critical law enforcement situations. You can also research product specifications and learn about opportunities for TigerLight training.
As a final note, I want to be clear about why I wrote this article. After 20 years of working for the Portland PD, I am actively involved in training new officers. I coach on the street, work as a defensive tactics and firearms instructor, and teach at our yearly in-service. I’m at a place in my career where I believe it’s my responsibility to help develop the next generation of police officers and help them become safe and effective public servants. I believe the TigerLight can enhance your security and make you better cops. That’s why I wanted to tell you about it.
Mike Stradley has served on the Portland (Ore.) Police Department for 20 years. His current assignments include SERT, and he is a defensive tactics and firearms instructor.
Training to Use the TigerLight
Before you take your new TigerLight into the field, make sure that you spend some time getting acquainted with how to use it. The TigerLight is not just another flashlight; it’s a less-lethal weapon system. So it’s critical that you take the time to train with it.
TigerLight has instructors available to teach an eight-hour scenario-based course that can be adapted to the needs of any agency. The company trains and certifies master instructors who become experts on how to teach officers to use the device. The master instructors can also testify in court as to its effectiveness and the fact that its use can minimize subject injuries.
There is truth in the theory that you fight as you train. An effective TigerLight training program should encompass how the TigerLight will be integrated with other tools at your disposal. It should also include how to transition from the TigerLight to other less-lethal and lethal weapons.
It’s important that your training program also include instruction on positional asphyxia, as well as how to tell when a subject who has overdosed on drugs or an emotionally disturbed subject is experiencing excited delirium.
Several studies I reviewed while writing this article indicate the use of pepper spray reduces the number of excessive force complaints. The reason for this is simple. You are the police officer who deployed the pepper spray causing severe discomfort. You are also the person who, once the emergency is over, goes to your trunk for the spray bottle that will alleviate some of that discomfort. This act is one of compassion and should be included in your training program.
Training builds muscle memory and the ability to react quickly and decisively. The overall success and effectiveness of deploying the TigerLight can be fully realized only through a thorough approach to training.