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Features

I See You

The latest tactical video systems offer sophisticated imaging capabilities in lightweight, portable packages.

August 01, 2003  |  by Dave Douglas


Back when I was a young officer, I worked in the beach area of my city. One day as I pulled my patrol car up to the boardwalk area, I saw a young guy about my age toss away a baggie containing a “green vegetable matter.” The presence of my car had spooked him, and he took off like a shot down the boardwalk. I called for backup, got out of the car, took off after him on foot, and we went tearing down the boardwalk, across a street, and into an alleyway.

We were both running fast and strong, feet pounding the pavement, and I was gaining on him. Then I saw him turn a corner and disappear between the houses. I should have sensed danger, but I was a rookie and pumped by the adrenaline of the chase. I sprinted around the same corner. And Boom! My lights went out.

When they came back on (and dimly), my sergeant was helping the ambulance crew put me into the back of a meat wagon for a trip to see my wife, a nurse at the local emergency room.

The investigation that followed revealed that the suspect had turned that corner, picked up a two-by-four, counted to six (the number of seconds I was behind him), swung for the fences, and caught me smack dab in the forehead. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t permanent. But I learned not to go charging around blind corners in hot pursuit of fleeing suspects.

I really could have used a tool that let me see around corners that day. And now, today’s cops can have them. You’re probably thinking to yourself, this was a spur-of-the-moment foot chase, so how could you have used some bulky, unwieldy tactical video system? The answer is they’re not that bulky anymore and they’re much easier to use.

Tactical video systems have been a tool in the police utility belt for some time now, but they haven’t always been practical. Some of the older portable video units were “portable” in name only. They required an expensive robot or a really stout operator just to carry them. And as if that didn’t make them difficult enough to use, most were hard wired and required long cabling and reels.

In contrast, the newest tactical video units are much smaller and offer an agency more uses than older systems. They’re lightweight, versatile, wireless (although many can be hard wired when necessary), and extremely adaptable to almost any police video application.

But are they really for patrol use? The nature of a tactical team’s mission usually allows its members to have that extra time to deploy specialized equipment for looking around corners and into other places. A patrol officer doesn’t have that kind of time.

The answer is, maybe. As you will see in the following look at tactical video systems, the ability to see around corners without mirrors is no longer just available to special units.

CamLite


The Camlite is both a patrol flashlight and a portable video system that can transmit images 1,000 feet.

CamLite Corp. offers a small, handheld camera system that has applications for both patrol and tactical operations. The company’s namesake product, “the CamLite,” looks like a regular police flashlight, but it’s also a video camera and a 2.4-gigahertz wireless transmitter.

One of the most useful features of the CamLite is the range of its transmitter. A patrol officer holding a CamLight can view images on the built-in monitor and send them to a monitor in his or her supervisor’s car from a range of up to 1,000 feet. The CamLite System is also compatible with some existing in-car video systems. This makes the product even more attractive to your department’s bean counters by enhancing officer safety on traffic stops, domestic violence investigations, and DUI stops, and by providing defensive evidence to combat “he said, she said” citizen complaints.

Weighing in at slightly more than a pound, the CamLight is as easy to carry as a full-size flashlight. It features a rechargeable battery pack that packs two hours of juice for flashlight-only use and four hours of camera-only use.

DTC Communications


The infrared receiver of DTC Communication’s ThermoVision Scout can see suspects in the dark and through smoke, foliage, and fog.

DTC Communications has mated its FLIR ThermoVision Scout camera system with a wireless transmitter to create the Wireless FLIR ThermoVision Scout. The ThermoVision Scout is a handheld passive infrared receiver that gives individual officers or tactical teams thermal imaging capabilities that only the military could afford a few years ago.

Some thermal imaging systems are intimidatingly difficult to use, but the ThermoVision Scout is as easy to handle as a flashlight. With very little muss or fuss, this new infrared camera allows you to see suspects or victims clearly in complete darkness, smoke, through foliage, and under low-visibility conditions at distances of up to 1,200 feet. The Scout’s exclusive InstAlert feature highlights warm objects, such as people or vehicles, in red for immediate operator attention.

DTC Communications has taken the capabilities of the ThermoVision Scout and elevated them to the next level by linking the 1.5-pound device with a wireless transmitter and receiver to create the Wireless FLIR ThermoVision Scout.

One of the problems inherent with radio frequency (RF) transmission is multipath interference. The signals coming from the outgoing antenna will bounce off hard objects such as walls, cars, buildings, or even people. This means that the same signal is coming back to the receiver at different times. The result is a signal as garbled as a conversation in which your sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and spouse are all talking to you at once. DTC has eliminated this problem in the Wireless FLIR ThermoVision Scout through an application of proprietary technology that cleans up the signal.

Instrument Technology Inc.


The telescoping pole of Instrument Technology Inc.’s system gives officers the ability to recon the bad guy’s position from relative safety.

Instrument Technology Inc. (ITI) specializes in the design, development, and manufacture of high-quality Borescopes, Fiberscopes, and Videoscopes for inspection or observation into hostile environments or inaccessible areas. The company’s equipment is a mainstay for industrial applications, but ITI also offers a comprehensive selection of instruments for law enforcement.

ITI’s video systems are in use in a variety of police operations, including surveillance, contraband search, bomb inspection, and SWAT. The modular design of the system makes it an extremely effective and versatile tool. For example, a tactical team can use the under-door camera head attached to ITI’s telescoping kit to slide a viewer under a closed door to see if a suspect is standing on the other side. The telescoping pole provides the added safety of letting the officers stand back 10 to 12 feet in case the bad guy sees the probe and shoots in its general direction. Once the camera is in position, it can be used to provide the team with real-time intelligence about the location of the bad guys, their weapons, and the presence of hostages or other innocents.

All of this information can be sent by the camera head back to a handheld monitor or to a heads-up display (HUD). The HUD consists of a small 320x240 pixel, 16-bit color display that attaches to the included Wiley X goggles and a power supply. This gives the operator hands-free viewing, so that he can carry a weapon or operate another tool. Additionally, the signal can be broadcast back to the command post, so that the incident commander has a clear picture of the situation.

A number of optional attachments are available for the ITI system, including infrared cameras that feature their own built-in light sources, fiberoptic video lenses that are small enough to insert through a crack in a wall, and through-the-wall and through-the-ceiling scopes. The company even makes a tripod mounted camera that can be set up as a remote stationary sentinel.

CONTINUED: I See You «   Page 1 of 2   »

Tags: Search and Rescue, Bomb Squads, Surveillance Operations, Booby Traps, Drug Enforcement, Narcotics Task Force, Product Reviews, Smuggling

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