7 Features of Great Police Flashlights (+ Checklist)
How important are police flashlights, really? You'd be surprised.
Crime thrives in darkness. The dark corners of even the safest communities are the perfect hiding spots for criminals to observe you from, to stash their contraband, and to melt into if pursued.
Next time you take a look at your neighborhood, home or business, look at it through the eyes of a criminal. Where would you hide? If you had to flee, what path would you take? What blind spots can you exploit? Usually, the poorly lit avenue is the path of least resistance to a criminal.
Sheriffs departments, neighborhood safety watch groups, and security details all need the flashlights for patrolling. Skill is an important part of what makes an effective law enforcement officer, but the tools they rely on are just as important.
Simply put: if you don’t have a good flashlight (or 2, for different environments), your effectiveness is compromised in high crime areas or in dangerous search and rescue scenarios, and that could be the difference between life and death. During pursuit or investigation, you need a flashlight built with policing in mind.
Police flashlights aren’t just for rounding up bad guys and bringing them to justice. Because these versatile flashlights have an impressive beam distance they can also be used in a number of situations, such as crowd marshalling, traffic redirection, or search and rescue.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD POLICE SECURITY FLASHLIGHT?
For police officers, a flashlight is a completely different piece of equipment from an ordinary household flashlight. It’s a specialty item that you can’t get at a hardware or camping store. Let's look at what makes an effective light for law enforcement.
How many lumens is a police flashlight?
The light output of a police flashlight should reach upwards of 1000 lumens when working outdoors. This light beam will cut through any darkness. But in confined spaces, a high lumen count will create glare and backscatter, basically doing more harm than good. For enclosed spaces, a light output of 90-120 lumens is ideal.
Beam distance is measured as the distance in feet, or meters, that a beam will travel before it deteriorates to 0.25 lux - the average moonlight level.
Peak beam intensity measures the most luminous point of the beam a few feet from the bezel, and this is expressed in units called candela.
A quality tactical flashlight makes you and those around you safer. These lights have a strong beam to illuminate your environment and any potential lurkers at a reasonable distance. It’s no good having a torch that only reveals things in close proximity to you, especially if you and your colleagues are operating close to hidden threats like criminals or treacherous terrain.
A strong beam aids you as much as it impairs criminals. The blinding effect of tactical flashlights is disorienting to would-be attackers, intimidating them into freezing or fleeing rather than attacking an officer by surprise.
Easy to Handle
Apart from packing a luminosity punch, your flashlight should have a body that’s easy to handle -- one that you won’t drop at a critical moment. The material it’s constructed from is also important.
Because of the power output of police flashlights, the body should be made of a material that disperses heat generated by the lamp and batteries, especially when operating at a high lumen output for minutes at a time. Heat dispersion not only protects you, it also protects the entire device from being compromised by warping and degeneration caused by changing temperatures.
[Click on the image above to read about our proprietary TRS technology]
If you’re operating in environments that have extreme temperatures, an uncovered aluminum flashlight will have a wildly variable temperature depending on the surrounding environment, be it extreme heat, or extreme cold. In this case, a polymer material or a similarly resilient material is fit for purpose.
[Click on the image to read our article about pros & cons of plastic and aluminium flashlights]
If you only use your lights intermittently or need to temporarily stow it for easy access, purchase a flashlight designed to fit a belt holster. It adds to the convenience and keeps your hands free when needed. Even the most shockproof flashlight can only fall out of your pocket so many times before it’s rendered inoperable.
Tough and Durable
In case of the occasional and unavoidable fall or collision, good shock resistance is a must. This could either be a shock-resistant housing on the exterior of the flashlight unit, or reinforcement inside the flashlight itself.
Needless to say, the battery and bulb need to be sealed from any potential seepage from a moist or gaseous environment that can damage the inner workings and circuitry.
A good police security flashlight should be resistant to rain and humid conditions. A waterproof flashlight is one that’s specially manufactured to be operable underwater, like the AQUALITE PRO2. The environmental and operational demands of search and rescue dictate that it’s tough, bright and waterproof. If it’s used for underwater recovery, a patrol in the rain above ground would be a walk in the park for this particular flashlight.
Also consider a headlamp designed specifically for search and rescue operations, like our VIZION Z3 HEADLAMP, which boasts three output settings ranging from 210 lumens to 40 lumens as well as our patented Compound Path Optics (CPO) and the Thermal Recovery System (TRS) technologies.
It all begins in the lamp the determining factor in beam quality and lumen output of your police flashlight.
Incandescent bulbs are the least expensive of all bulbs, but they have many inefficiencies. While they burn bright, they waste a lot of energy because of the amount of heat they produce. That’s why these bulbs and the batteries that power them don’t last very long.
LED lights have no filament or glass. That’s why they’re more reliable than traditional incandescent bulbs. An LED flashlight is slightly more expensive, but it more than makes up for that with durability and burn time. You'll actually be saving money in the long run.
Finally, there are High-Intensity Discharge (HID) flashlights. These flashlights produce an incredibly high lumen rating and work by running electric current through a noble gas such as argon, krypton, xenon or neon (or a mixture of these gases). They have a smaller point source so the light from these flashlights is cast much further, making it a very good option for even the harshest weather conditions.
Of course, keep in mind that the higher the lumen output generated by a flashlight, the more energy is consumed. That’s why the best police flashlights have a variety of modes for every occasion.
Versatility is a key consideration when choosing a police light. There is a big difference in the amount of light required for different scenarios.
A tactical flashlight is not the best option for reading a map or performing fine tasks. In fact, it can be dangerous because harsh reflection creates blind spots in your vision when you should be aware of your surroundings.
Rather than carrying three or four different flashlights, security professionals opt for one or two versatile lights with different modes. Flashlights for law enforcement are the Swiss Army knives of illumination, with various settings from low power for the pen and paper tasks, to high lumen output for tasks such as search and rescue operations.
Some police flashlights have special attachments to add extra utility to each unit. Directing traffic around an obstruction on the freeway? Rather than just using a conventional torch, look for lights like our 3AA and 4AA that can mount a traffic director wand onto the unit.
Tactical flashlights are all different to suit a variety of operating environments, and the range of power source options available is no different. You have everything from lights that are charged with common AA batteries, right up to mounted battery chargers in police vehicles with a 12 V input, and everything in between.
The flashlights that consume the most power and emit more lumens generally (but not always) are powered by CR123A batteries.
Flashlights that use regular AA or AAA are generally not as powerful, but these batteries are easy to find, so keeping your police flashlight powered is as easy as going to the convenience store.
Although many would consider the rechargeable flashlight option as the most convenient of all. These tend to use lithium-ion batteries, which can easily recharge through a USB connection, just like your phone or most other modern electronics. This is perfect if you need on-site charging to rotate flashlights in a longer field operation.
When trying to determine the best option, at the very least it needs to have a long enough battery life so that the light won’t quit before the end of your patrol.
And if the flashlight is rechargeable, they need to charge quickly to be ready for the next shift.
Checklist for the Best Police Flashlight
When looking for flashlights, police, security, and other law enforcement officers should use this checklist to find the perfect match:
- Brightness - Check Lumens, beam distance and peak beam
- Ease of handling - Does it have a comfortable grip with adequate heat dispersion?
- Durability - Is it shockproof and waterproof?
- Versatility - How many functions does it have? Are the light settings adjustable?
- Power - How much battery life does it have on the highest lumen setting? How quickly does it charge? How do I charge it? How often will I have to buy new batteries?
- After-sales service - Is there a warranty/guarantee?
- Adaptability - Are there any other attachments that can add to its functionality?
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