From left: Latent print dusted with florescent powder, under blue FLS; chemically enhanced latent print under blue FLS;
latent print dusted with fluorescent powder and lifted, viewed under UV light; and a chemically enhanced print viewed under UV.
First-Light USA’s Tomahawk
Streamlight’s Sidewinder C4
Energizer’s Hard Case HCT2GU21L
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In these times of economic stress, agencies are trimming support services to ensure basic services can continue. Until recently, a technical specialist processed many scenes officers responded to. However, for agencies seeking to trim their budgets, that support may now be gone. Fortunately, a new generation of affordable, tactical, forensic lights is available to fill the gap for individual officers.
Early forensic light sources were large, expensive, heavy and rarely portable lasers. These evolved into smaller, more affordable units. Then came alternate light sources powerful white light units with filter systems usually provided the ability to select various wavelengths, thus expanding their utility. The development of clip-on blue filters for large patrol lights resulted in affordable forensic lighting for every crime scene response vehicle, as well as investigators and advanced patrol officers.
Some of the most recent developments in portable lighting are now being mixed together into single units, combining strong LEDs, convenient power sources and multiple color choices. As a result, units are available that an officer can carry at all times, providing convenient, powerful white light, as well as access to alternate wavelengths of light that permit forensic use. Further, as technology becomes more available, costs have decreased to make these lights as affordable as many other lighting units.
Recently, First-Light USA introduced some innovative designs. The Liberator was designed especially for tactical use. A year later, the company introduced the Tomahawk, a diminutive L-shape powerhouse that measures approximately 3.25" x 2.5". Within its practically indestructible aluminum body, the light packs many features. A spring clip permits mounting to pockets, plackets, MOLLE systems or any similar attachment point. A small finger ring allows it to attach to a finger without using hand-grip power an especially valuable feature when used with a handgun or other situation where use of your hand is critical. A powerful LED light combines with lithium batteries to produce up to two hours of light at its most powerful setting (100 lumens) or up to 60 continuous hours of lighting at its lowest setting.
The Tomahawk MC Model 999122-TRB and its prototypical brother in UV should be of particular interest to officers. The 999122-TRB surrounds the main white LED with a ring containing six red and six blue LEDs. Each color white, red or blue may be set to any of three power settings. At its brightest 100 lumen setting the white light can be blinding great for long distances or for tactical purposes where blinding a threat is a valuable safety tool. But in closer quarters, the ability to dim the light output makes it much more useful.
Red is especially suited to low-light conditions, because it s the most difficult color to see in the dark. Therefore it provides a measure of safety when officers conduct a search. Red also preserves night vision. Initially, blue was included for its ability to locate blood, especially for military or law enforcement tracking at night. The circle of six LEDs produces a strong blue beam that s valuable for other forensic uses.
A blue light source, combined with an orange filter, works well with a number of latent fingerprint powders and chemicals to make them fluoresce. The filter may be inexpensively found at a camera store, where used filters are often sold. A deep orange filter is best for these applications. Generally used in conjunction with superglue fuming, these are valuable tools when searching for older latents. The blue wavelengths have also proved their value for searching for such materials as saliva, semen and urine, and without the orange viewing filter, they ve been used for blood search and some fiber or hair searches.
First-Light USA s prototype Tomahawk MC substitutes UV LEDs for the red ones of the 999122-TRB. These also cycle through three levels of power. This tool can be used as a blue light source with the orange viewing filter, and then used with the UV LEDs with no filter. The UV will fluoresce many of the same chemicals and powders as the blue source, plus is very good at lighting up seminal fluid stains, as well as many types of fiber.
Designed for the military market, Streamlight s Sidewinder C4 angle-head flashlight is also suited for law enforcement. The Sidewinder is compact: Its polycarbonate main body measures 2.75" x 1.75" x 0.75", and its hinged head is another 1.25" long. A spring clip is designed for MOLLE or similar attachment; the clip may be removed and mounted to the back side permitting easy use by right or left handed personnel.
Two AA batteries power its variety of LEDs. A white C4 LED provides up to 50 lumens of light, which may be adjusted through three power settings. Additionally, red, blue and infrared (IR) LEDs provide additional lighting variety, each also adjustable through three levels of light output. The red and blue allow for uses similar to those described above for the Tomahawk, and the IR is designed for use in conjunction with night vision. In testing with a generation-I night vision device (NVD), it provided a useable level of light for an interior, darkened room.
Clicking the switch twice for any color mode puts the light into strobe effect. Although this is probably intended for military Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), it may also serve officer safety. Clipped to one s shirt or belt, set to an appropriate color and switched to strobe, it will act as an attention-gaining device when in traffic. The IR strobe is of value to tactical personnel making approaches in darkened situations under NVD or for undercover personnel as an emergency beacon.
Often, we think of Energizer as the source of that cute little bunny with his batteries and a variety of lighting options for home use. The Energizer Hard Case lighting line, however, is designed for military, tactical and industrial use. At approximately 5.25" x 2" x 1", the HCT2GU21L Swivel Light is convenient for carry. A spring-wire clip permits its attachment to pockets, MOLLE gear or other surfaces. A rubber-like front pad runs up most of the front of the polycarbonate body, aiding in retention in wet conditions (e.g., sweat, rain).
A central, 70-lumen white LED provides primary light output. Surrounding it are four supplemental LEDs: green, red, blue and UV. Similar to the First-Light USA and the Streamlight models, the white, red and blue lights may be cycled through three power levels. The head may be rotated from 90 ahead to straight up and then backward another 45 . The addition of the green LED is of primary value in night vision retention a popular choice for pilots and others needing to illuminate items while protecting their night vision. The red, blue and UV sources may be used as in the other lights.
The battery placement and storage in this model is ingenious. Place one battery in the unit's right compartment to power the unit. Place one in the left compartment, positive down, as spare battery storage. Turn it over, and it works to supplement the battery in the right compartment, increasing lighting time.
Where to Shop
205 South Main Street
Seymour, IL 61875
30 Eagleville Road
Eagleville, PA 19403-3996
533 Maryville University Drive
St. Louis, MO 63141
These lights provide officers versatile tools. Compact sizes help ensure one always has a light available. Variable power provides light power to meet the needs of the circumstances, as well as a means of conserving battery life. Red and green lights provide protection for night vision, whether for writing notes or for tactical operations. Blue and UV extend the capability of the officer who strives to take the next step into an investigation, especially in the small department or the agency burdened by budget cuts. Important: All cost around $100, competitive with many other lights that are only single-wavelength sources. Considering their versatility, convenience, safety features and an idea of what the law enforcement light will evolve into in the near future, you can t go wrong with any of these offerings.