By Sara Schreiber
Amid falling costs and improved
features, law enforcement may be
able to find a few more reasons to
pick up a thermal imaging camera
C ole Burdette, chief tacti-
cal flight officer with the
Los Angeles Police Department Air
quickly went to work, setting a large
perimeter of about seven blocks.
When Burdette arrived on scene in a
says Burdette. Within 5 minutes of
being in station, search crews locat-
ed one suspect hiding in bushes
Support Division remembers the helicopter equipped with a thermal behind a garage. They spotted the
day a few years back when a super- imaging camera, they quickly spot- next suspect on the roof of another
market robbery quickly turned into ted the first suspect attempting to garage, crouching beneath a tree.
a heated shoot-out between suspects break into a house and alerted offi- Burdette credits the thermal
and surveillance officers. Two of the cers to his location. Meanwhile, two imaging device with helping officers
suspects were shot, recalls Burdette. more men remained at large. locate the suspects quickly and with
“One officer remained in the car and “You could just imagine, sus- little additional danger to ground
one ran out into the perimeter with pects that are known to be armed patrol. “Because of the [thermal
the remaining suspects. So we have and you’ve just been in a shoot-out imaging device] they were able to
one suspect who’s down in the car with them, and now you’ve got coax him out and take him into cus-
upon our arrival, and we have three K-9 handlers and SWAT officers tody without further incident.”
suspects outstanding.” going in. The level of danger [the Thermal imaging cameras aren’t
Helicopter and search teams officers] are involved in is great,” just for SWAT teams anymore.
www.officer.com ■ July 2009 ■ Law Enforcement Technology 35
Images courtesy of FLIR
FLIR’s PathFindIR LE is a new
compact thermal imager for police
cars that fits behind grilles.
Aside from use in search and rescue Suspects can’t hide their heat. Unlike night vision, thermal devices can “see
missions, the cameras can locate through” obstructions like smoke, dust, vegetation and light brush, day or night.
“hot” cars and even detect potential
grow operations. Law enforcement thermal imaging can “see through” of quality improvement. He also
agencies take note: Once consid- smoke and dust, and is not restricted notes units have other built-in elec-
ered an expensive albeit useful tool, by vegetation and light brush. The tronic features like digital wireless
today’s units are fa