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FLIR Night Vision Ensures Officers‘ Safety

As the chief of police of Paris, Texas (pop. 26,000), I live in a good community with good people.

Officer Jeremy Duerksen of the Paris, Texas, Police Department tries out the FLIR LS64 thermal monocular. As the chief of police of Paris, Texas (pop. 26,000), I live in a good community with good people. It’s the only place you’ll find a 65-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower topped by a giant, red Stetson hat. Nonetheless, Paris has faced some tough economic times of late and has the same mix of crime you’d expect from a town our size.

My staff of 42 patrol officers responds to an average of 40,000 service calls a year, and I wanted to find a tool that would help them do their jobs better and safer. A year ago, we purchased a FLIR thermal night vision imager. It was so well-received, officers clamor for it every night.

What I like about thermal is its dual use. Other night vision systems can only function at night. However, because thermal cameras measure heat, instead of light, you can use them day or night.

Paris is located in northeast Texas, where the landscape is wooded with lush vegetation. Some areas are tough to walk through, let alone see through. I tell my officers that foot chases don’t happen only at night, and there are plenty of places for suspects to hide. That’s why a thermal image is so effective.

The Paris Police Department actually has an older, larger FLIR camera that is dedicated for criminal investigations. However, my patrol officers needed something compact and user-friendly.

In 2012, we used a $6,000 Edward Burn Justice Assistance Grant from the U.S. Government to purchase a FLIR LS64 thermal monocular from online distributor Optimum Energy. And it didn’t take long for the FLIR unit to make its presence known.

The very first week, officers were searching for a burglary suspect who had abandoned his truck and fled into a cemetery at night. The officers used the FLIR imager to spot the suspect about 70 feet away lying prone on the ground. The benefit was the officers didn’t have to search the area with flashlights, which would have alerted the suspect to their position the entire time. The suspect could have run away, or even attacked one of the officers. As it was, officers took him into custody without incident.

An image of a pistol thrown in the weeds, as seen through the FLIR LS64 thermal monocular. Our officers have used the FLIR LS64 on other arrests, plus a few missing persons cases — one involving an Alzheimer’s patient. The thermal imager also did a stretch of surveillance duty during an investigation of a ring of car thieves. When officers wanted to check whether a parked car had been recently driven, they didn’t have to get out of their patrol car and do the old “touch the hood” trick. Instead, they could just drive past and scan the vehicle with the FLIR.

On a typical night, we’ll have seven units out, but only one FLIR imager. I joke that there is a nightly wrestling match to see which unit gets to carry it. Whoever has it needs to be paying attention, though, because they’re always going to be the first unit called.

If we had the budget, I’d make sure each squad car had a FLIR camera. You can buy officers new gadgets, but if they don’t have confidence in them, they’ll leave those gadgets behind at the station. We don’t have that problem with the FLIR unit.

The good news is we’ve received another grant to buy a second FLIR imager, likely one that can capture video. In the meantime, the FLIR unit is just one of those tools we were happy to get our hands on. It really aids the officers in keeping them safe when catching the bad guys.

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