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Nightsight Field Assessment Creative Technology Solutions to Law Enforcement Problems, Final Project Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2002
46 pages
This report presents the findings of a field assessment of the use of infrared sensors in law enforcement applications, based on specific goals and objectives.
The Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) technology assessed in this project was Raytheon's "NightSight" technology, fielded as both vehicle-mounted and hand-portable units that allow police officers to detect temperature differentials by viewing a given area through FLIR-enhanced images. Raytheon's FLIR technology can detect radiation emitted in the infrared spectrum, depicting temperature differentials as small as one-tenth of one degree Fahrenheit; it can image objects over a range of 10 to 2,400 feet. Raytheon engaged the cooperation of 13 law enforcement agencies to gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of FLIR technology in policing. Data collection for the assessment included the use of a discrete variable data collection form; completion of "ride-alongs" with, and interviews of, police officers who used FLIR technology; periodic "focus groups" with supervisory personnel from among the police agencies participating in the study; interviews with project coordinators from each agency; and a "post project" wrap-up questionnaire completed by police officers who had used the FLIR technology in the normal course of their policing duties. The report concluded that vehicle-mounted and hand-portable FLIR systems offered substantial benefits. Thermal imaging technology is not dependent on light energy to allow the officer to see a given target. Further, since FLIR uses heat energy to generate a picture, it is less limited and has been found to be more useful and reliable under most conditions, including being able to see through smoke, dust, a few layers of foliage, fog, and light rain in both day and night conditions. From locating injured persons, hidden suspects, stolen vehicles, and detecting criminal activity without being seen, to locating recently discarded evidence, hidden compartments, or skid marks at accident scenes (unseen by sight), this assessment indicates that thermal imaging technology is a valuable law enforcement and public safety tool that reduces personnel costs and arguably makes police work safer. Training, deployment methods, organizational experience with and acceptance of technology, and the nature of the advocates of the technology are discussed as factors that may affect the outcome of a technology innovation. 7 tables and appended data-collection instruments

Date Published: March 1, 2002