SCENARIO 4 |Thermal V Night Vision Comparison- Episode 4 Drug House Raid


In this scenario, we are put into the shoes of a law enforcement officer providing perimeter security at the back of a commercial business that is a front for selling drugs, during a raid. An undercover officer is inside. As the assault element makes entry at the front of the building, we see two individuals go running out the back. The inner perimeter officer has a few seconds to determine what to do. Are they both suspects? Is one a suspect and the other a cop? As the two subjects run, we jump to the point of view of one of the outer perimeter officers who witnesses the same two subjects run through a gate into a residential yard. These situations can develop rapidly and radio communications can sometimes become garbled or confused. Usually, officers have very little time to process the situation and make a decision when use of force is called for.
IR Patrol M300W Thermal Weapon Scope

IR Patrol M300W Thermal Weapon Scope

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.

From here, we switch to the view of one of the outer perimeter officers. The two subjects ran down the alley, away from the first officer’s position, went through a gate, and entered a residential yard. The outer perimeter officer and his K9 observe the first subject running through the gate with the second right behind him. The first guy turns and both subjects draw down on each other. What do we do? At this point, it can be safely assumed that one of the subjects is a cop and the other is a bad guy. But the situation is more complex than we see on the surface. At first, we would think that the guy being chased is the bad guy. But, as an outer perimeter officer, we know that there was an undercover officer inside the building. At the onset of the raid, he was going to run so as to not blow his cover. But, was his cover compromised anyway and he is being chased by one of the suspects who knows he is going to get caught, but is intent on killing this “traitor” before he goes down? Everything is happening in a split second and the outer perimeter officer is about to watch two individuals, one of them cop, engage each other at close range. His heart is beating through his chest and the blood is rushing in his ears. The damn frogs in the pond behind him won’t shut up either. With the stress level through the roof, he doesn’t have 100% PID on either subject to make a shot.

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.

As the chase continues into the residential yard, the outer perimeter officer can clearly the see the same details as the two subjects draw down on each other. Now, this split second decision is able to be made because it is clear who the suspect is. The outer perimeter officer can engage the suspect and help to save his buddy’s life.
While it is pretty obvious that officers equipped with night vision devices would be better off in this scenario, there are other factors we should acknowledge. These videos show great clarity and contrast of thermal devices. The subjects seem to literally pop out of their environments. It is incredibly easy for someone equipped with thermal to follow these subjects.
TNV/ Sentinel Binocular Night Vision System - L-3 OMNI VIII - Up-Armored Aviation-Style Goggle

TNV/ Sentinel Binocular Night Vision System – L-3 OMNI VIII – Up-Armored Aviation-Style Goggle

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.

See Scenario 5 Here

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