Law enforcement, government agencies and independent developers have all been searching for non-lethal and less forceful methods of subduing criminals and enemies. The use of tasers, rubber bullets and various gases and sprays have all been, and are all being, studied to find out how much damage, both short term and long term, they do. Some of the newest and most promising devices are being developed using an existing flashlight feature - strobing LED light.
While it may seem a little silly to think that a pulsing light can stop a criminal intent on breaking the law or committing violence, it is actually very effective. Just think about how disorienting it can be when a bright light is suddenly turned on in a dark room. Most people will squint or turn their head when light is suddenly introduced. In a lot of cases, that is all an officer needs to get the upper hand.
The light emitting diode, or LED, bulb is well suited for this type of application. We most often come into contact with these lights in our electronic devices. They are the kind of bulb used to let you know that the power is on. Over the last ten years they have started to play a bigger role in everyday lighting. They are prominent fixtures in the world of outdoor lighting equipment (think flashlights, lanterns and headlamps). There are many towns that are starting to replace their standard traffic lights with ones made with LEDs. These lights are also being used as home lighting replacement bulbs and around the landscaping. LED bulbs burn much brighter on less energy, are very durable, last for longer spans of time and can come in a variety of colors.
Strobing lights have the effect of disorienting the communication between our eyes and our brains. This forces someone looking at them to have to look away or flee from the pulsing of the light. Police officers have been using strobe flashlights for several years as a means to stop fleeing suspects by stunning and confusing them. This non-violent means of incapacitating a criminal is being looked at for wider use.
CBS News ran a story recently on what is being called the LED Incapacitator. This LED light takes this strobing concept to the next level without losing the inherent benefits of an LED bulb. It uses some specific light frequencies that affect the brain and then cycles through those frequencies too fast for the brain to adjust. The light also shifts through various colors to cause additional confusion. This new police tactical light is bright enough to be used in both brightly lit environments as well as the dark.
Not only are these tactical flashlights helpful for law enforcement officers and the military, they are also considered beneficial for personal defense. Strobing LED flashlights are available to the public for use in their own safety. With a push of the button, a general LED flashlight can turn into a strobing light in the event of an attack while in a parking garage or walking home at night. This pulsing light can provide a few extra seconds to get away or call out for help. Some who do not wish to carry pepper spray will find this an excellent alternative.
Strobing flashlights and torches are innovative and potentially life saving. As new devices are being created for our uniformed professionals, we may see more and more derivatives of those products available to the public.
~Ben Anton, 2008
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