After reading Steve Ashley's article "Seeing Green" (August, p. 68), I want to clear up a few misconceptions about night-vision equipment. As a retired police chief, I am familiar with limited budgets, increased responsibility and workload challenges. It's important that the facts are straight so that law enforcement can make informed decisions and not waste precious time and resources.
Ashley states on p. 68 that there are four generations of night-vision technology, and he is correct. These generations are defined by the U.S. Army. However, the range is from Gen 0 to Gen 3. Gen 4 equipment, featuring filmless technology, was developed for the government, but it ultimately failed as a product, and the government ended the use of the term Gen 4. Today, thin-film technology is the most advanced, and it remains under the Gen 3 umbrella.
Here s a quick description of the characteristics of each generation:
Gen 0: Requires an active infrared (IR) source;
Gen 1: Uses a passive IR source (e.g., ambient light from moon, stars, etc.). Multiple tubes are stacked together, making them cumbersome;
Gen 2: Uses the micro channel plate (MCP). The size of the unit is reduced for head/helmet mounting;
Gen 3: Uses a gallium arsenide photocathode, which more efficiently converts light to energy; and
Gen 4: Originally defined by the U.S. Army as a filmless MCP with a gated power supply. By removing the ion barrier (or film) from the MCP the tube life was so drastically reduced the Army rescinded the classification. Instead, the Army kept the Gen 3 classification, but went with a thin-filmed ion barrier with a gated power supply.
Buy the best you can afford is Ashley s advice on p. 70 to tactical teams and specialized units. This is a solid recommendation, but the second piece of that advice, to purchase Gen 2 technology, is not. Gen 2 is low-cost and easily accessible for a reason: It has been replaced by more effective tools. U.S. manufacturers no longer even make Gen 2 photocathode tubes, the most critical part of a night-vision unit; these tubes are now manufactured overseas.
Most importantly, Gen 2 does not allow the user to make clear identifications of individuals or objects in the field, which compromises officer safety and mission success. Furthermore, while Gen 2 equipment is less expensive than Gen 3, it still requires a significant monetary investment for agencies. Such an investment should be made in equipment that truly will meet the full spectrum of agencies tactical, surveillance and patrol needs. I ve heard too many officers complain that their Gen 2 units are sitting on the shelf because the equipment didn t do what the department needed it to do.
Gen 3 technology, hardly covered in Ashley s article, is the best available and is the only technology that allows officers to make clear identifications in the field. In fact, identifications made through Gen 3 night-vision units have been admissible as evidence in court. In addition, the limitations of night vision outlined by Ashley do not apply to all Gen 3 equipment. For example, while Ashley implies on p. 71 that the longest possible battery life for a night vision unit is 20 30 hours, this generally applies only to older units. The Gen 3 PVS-14, for instance, typically runs for more than 50 hours on a single AA battery.
It all comes down to making a smart investment. Officers must have tools that help keep them and their communities safe. Budget dollars are limited using them on inferior products only results in cluttered gear lockers, wasted funds, a greater risk of failed missions or worse, officer injury.
I invite anyone interested in night-vision technology or equipment to contact 540/563-0371, ext. 4582, or visit www.nightvision.com .
Chief Tom Dugan (Ret.)
Law Enforcement Projects Coordinator, ITT Night Vision
Steve Ashley responds: There is much information available regarding NVDs, and many different opinions about what s better or best. My research included several different and reliable sources. However, as an industry insider, Tom Dugan would be a valuable source of info for anyone researching a purchase.
It s about time for gunfighter training
Kudos, kudos, kudos to Ken Murray's article Time for a Global Shift (October, p. 90). It's about time police departments out there realize the 1960s training mentality needs to step aside and make way for reality. Murray hit the nail on the head. Twenty-four cops died last year from less than five feet Does that not tell you something is seriously flawed with the current range and training techniques? Unfortunately, due to the this is the way we've always trained mentality of most agencies and dinosaur firearms instructors unwilling to venture into the world of realistic training, more officers will continue to die. Agencies need to wake up (and hope that surviving family members of deceased officers don't get their hands on articles like this one). It's time for agencies to face reality and at least make a conscious effort to inject some reality based training into their respective programs. How about a little more money in the kitty for training and a little less money for officer-friendly coloring books?
Department of Homeland Security
New Britain, Conn.