At the start of the video, we are looking through a thermal imager and we see the first subject burst through the door, turn, and run away from the camera. We can ascertain a decent amount of information. We can see that he is male, athletic build, wearing shorts, T-shirt, and flip-flops. He appears to have some facial hair and is armed with a pistol. The subject appears to be trying to get away without regard to who or what may be in his immediate environment. The second subject follows close behind the first. We can see that he is male, larger build, does not have facial hair, and is wearing a short sleeve shirt and pants. This subject is also armed with a pistol. We can also see that his behavior is different than the first subject. While the first guy immediately came running out the door and took off away from the camera, the second guy has his gun at a low ready and takes a quick glance forward before running in the same direction as the first. What does this tell us? The inner perimeter officer has a couple seconds to decide whether or not to engage the first, second, or both subjects. Neither subject’s face can be clearly identified through thermal, nor can their clothing. The first subject is probably a fleeing suspect based on his behavior. But, is the second guy a fleeing suspect or a fellow officer giving chase? After all, the raid is being carried out by officers not in traditional uniform… The second guy seems to exhibit some more professional gun handling behavior. But at the same time, there are many bad guys out there with firearms and tactical training today. Either way, the inner perimeter officer does not have enough data to engage these subjects with force.
In the second half of the video, we see the same scenario play out through night vision. The inner perimeter officer can immediately see the same details visible in the thermal video: grown male subject with facial hair in T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and armed with a pistol comes bursting out the back and takes off down the alley. The second subject is following close on his heels. He wears a short sleeve shirt, pants, has no facial hair, and is also armed with a pistol. The differences start when we see that both subject’s facial details are visible and identifiable. The inner perimeter officer can get a quick glimpse of the faces and get an idea of who is who. But, as the second subject rounds the corner after the first, “POLICE” is clearly printed on the back of his shirt.
The night vision devices allowed the officer to identify the subjects, but the detection limitations start to show. Notice how the first subject started to blend into the tree line as he ran away from the inner perimeter officer. While night vision provided more depth to the image, the light sources behind the tree line started to make it more difficult to follow the subjects. This can again be seen in the residential yard. When the first subject spins to engage the second, he is standing with a house and foliage behind him. This helps to conceal him slightly. While he can be seen, he is not popping out of the camera as he does when viewed through the thermal imager. This is a complex scenario that shows benefits and deficiencies of both technologies. Night vision edges out thermal in this case, due to its identification capability, but it is not without its shortcomings.