In August 2012 Christopher Howell, then the police chief of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, was seriously wounded in a gun battle with robbery suspects. (See "Shots Fired" in the July 2013 issue of POLICE.)
Howell says one of the results of that gunfight was that he became "a professional surgery patient." And while recovering from the nine surgeries that were required to treat his injuries, Howell started inventing something that he believes has the potential to change law enforcement low-light operations and make officers safer.
Howell's invention is the Tactical Throw Light, a product that will soon be available from his company Synergy Light. The Tactical Throw Light is a 3.5-inch-square, half-inch-tall, high-tech lighting system that Howell, a former DEA "door kicker," envisions being a vital new tool in a variety of law enforcement applications.
The Tactical Throw Light is designed to be used just the way the name implies. Officers can literally throw it into a room before making entry to illuminate the entire room. Howell says the effect is very much like someone turned on a 60-watt light bulb. More importantly, he believes using the Tactical Throw Light will make it harder for bad guys to target entering officers by shooting at their flashlights.
And it doesn't matter how the light lands after it's been thrown because the device literally has a brain. "A computer inside the Tactical Throw Light analyzes its positioning 50 times a second and determines what is the best way to light up the room based on its new position," Howell says. He adds that the light can be programmed to activate on impact or as it is thrown. It also cannot be turned off without the proper sequence of button pushes, so the bad guys can't just pick it up and turn it off.
Howell says programmability is one of the key features of the device because it allows Synergy Light to customize the Tactical Throw Light to meet the mission demands of different users. "We knew when it got into the field and officers started to train with it they would come up with ideas on how to use it. That's why we put a bunch of hardware under the hood so we could write new code and drop it in there for them," Howell says.
Howell says officers have already told him they plan to use the light for entry illumination, building searches, roadway hazard marking, helicopter landing zone delineation, crime scene lighting, and officer identification via infrared LEDs in night vision operations. Another major use for the Tactical Throw Light is room clearing and cleared room designation. Howell says operators can use the throw light to light up rooms when clearing and keep them lit to designate that they have been cleared. "That way you're not walking back into a dark room," Howell says.
Officers are quick to grasp the versatility of the Tactical Throw Light, Howell says. "They see that it is a game-changer. It won't replace the flashlight. It's another kind of lighting tool that officers can carry, and it could potentially save their lives," he says.
The Tactical Throw Light is expected to ship by the end of January at a suggested retail price of around $200. Howell says he was adamant about keeping the price in the same range as a good tactical flashlight. "I didn't want to price individual officers out of using this," he says.