Shining light on nonlethal weapons: a new device that uses light to incapacitate suspects is the latest tool in law enforcement's nonlethal arsenal.
The manufacturer, Intelligent Optical Systems (IOS) of Torrance, California, calls the new tool the LED Incapacitator (or LEDI, with LED standing for light emitting diodes). It could give law enforcement and security forces yet another way to subdue a violent subject, depending on how it performs in tests at the Pennsylvania State University's Institute for Non-lethal Defense Technologies.
The LEDI's bright lights prevent eyes from focusing for a few seconds, comparable to magnifying the effect of a picture flash.
"We consider it a nonlethal way to disorient potential attackers or criminals and to give the police those few seconds that they need to bring that person under control," says IOS CEO John Farina.
The LEDI's development and testing has been funded in part by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant of about $1 million, according to Farina. It's part of a growing legion of nonlethal weapon work supported by the government and private companies to provide military, police, security, and others with alternative options in potentially dangerous situations.
The LEDI, which Farina believes will work in the range of ten to 20 feet from a subject, has advantages even among other nonlethal weapons, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Commander Sid Heal, who consulted on the device. For exam pie, it does not have residual effects after a person becomes adjusted to the visual over-stimulation. Additionally, there is no need for decontamination and no chance of cross contamination, as can occur when pepper spray hits police officers as well as suspects during an incident.
Heal also points out that after purchasing the flashlight and batteries (which can be configured to be rechargeable), there aren't any additional costs. By contrast, Taser cartridges must be replaced after use and pepper spray must be replenished.
Nonlethal weapons provide a good intermediate ground between the extremes of lethal weapons and not arming at all, says security consultant Thomas Seamon, CPP.
Seamon says that an increased number of companies that he knows of have been arming their security officers with nonlethal weapons in recent years.
He expects that trend to continue due to the decreased liability of using a nonlethal weapon rather than a potentially lethal one, such as a gun.
Nonlethal weapons are not without their own controversies and potential liabilities, however. For example, Amnesty International, the human rights organization, has made complaints about Tasers and pepper spray, and its Web site contains recent studies into the number of fatalities suffered by persons subjected to a Taser hit, although debate continues over the extent of the cause-and-effect relationship between the weapon and the deaths.
Although Heal's department uses several nonlethal weapons, he says that concerns are justified and that nonlethal options do have their shortcomings. The major problem he sees with them is not in the devices so much as in "the judgment of how and when they're used."
Heal stresses the importance of training to address that concern. No national standards regarding nonlethal weapons training and use exist, but some state governments have established requirements, according to Seamon.
As for the LEDI, if testing proves successful, IOS has not ruled out the idea of selling smaller, self-defense versions for consumer use.
Did You Know That?
* SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES think they are more protected against Web-based security threats than they truly are, according to an "SMB State of Security" survey released by Websense, Inc. While 46 percent of IT managers surveyed said they have software to protect confidential data, 20 percent said they used only firewall and antivirus products; 12 percent said that they had an Internet usage policy, but had no way of enforcing it. The survey also found that 81 percent of companies did not use software to block the use of peer-to-peer applications, 80 percent did not block USB devices, and 76 percent did not control instant messaging, which has been a growing source of data loss.
Security Trends Primary Reasons for Guard Turnover According to Security Directors Other 17% Workload 7% Lack of Advancement Opportunities 34% Salaries Source: ASIS/Security Management Survey of Security Directors Note: Table made from pie chart.