It is well established that as police officers, we often work in diminished light situations. Even officers assigned to day watch have to go into dim areas, such as abandoned buildings, warehouses, and closets, looking for suspects.
Police officers have been trained, however, that using your flashlight can make you a target. Therefore, many instructors have encouraged police officers to either not use, or at least limit the use, of their flashlights.
Tom Aveni, a firearms trainer and career law enforcement officer, has conducted quite a bit of research into low-light shootings and the use of white light. In a SureFire document on lowlight and tactical training, Aveni said:
“There’s concern about a flashlight becoming a ‘bullet-magnet’ – and it might, if used improperly. But in all my years of research, I have never been able to document a single case of an officer being shot because he was using his flashlight. I’ve found no statistical evidence whatever of this much-feared consequence ever happening.”
However, Aveni’s research did find that officers mis-identify a threat in 18-33% of shootings, and of those, 75% happen in low light conditions.
Aveni found that the use of fear is heavily used in training police officers, and he feels that has made officers engage in unsafe firearms handling. Aveni said this trained fear interferes with good tactics.
“We should be conditioning officers to deploy their flashlights when walking into potentially threatening situations where they can’t clearly see what’s unfolding,” said Aveni.
Based on Aveni’s research, the use of a flashlight does not increase your chances of drawing fire, but it can help you avoid a bad shoot.
Aaron put together a three-part series on flashlight tactics. He covers a lot of the different techniques and the best lights to use with each of the techniques shown.
Check out our page on the best police flashlights here. We spend a lot of time reviewing the handheld lights that can be carried in law enforcement, and we want you to have our thoughts on each of them. As this article points out, you need a good quality torch to help split the night.