By Ed Santos, The Shooting Channel
Force Options – Just what does this term actually mean. We hear the term all the time. Agencies, municipalities and even the courts have all weighed in on the meaning or at least their interpretation of the use of force.
For our purposes here I believe the definition I have read in numerous law enforcement publications that best serves us goes something like this; FORCE OPTIONS -A planned and trained use of reasonable physical force, to include deadly force, necessary to gain control of an incident, group or individual.
“A planned and trained use”. This is the key phrase that I want to emphasize for our purpose in Low-Light tactics and techniques. To gain the greatest advantage, to enjoy the greatest level of liability protection, and to gain the greatest benefit of our actions, our tactics must be planned and trained.
Use your flashlight like the Police do, temporarily disorient your attacker.
How do you use light as a force option? I bet I’ve got you wondering now. Imagine your aggressor experiencing 5-7 seconds of disorientation as a result of something you do at your discretion from a distance with your flashlight. Would you do it? Would you flip that preverbal switch just before you go hands on? I bet you would. I know I do it all the time. It works! One way I often apply this principle is when I am approaching a car on a traffic stop at night. If for some reason I feel the least bit unsure of what I am walking up on, I will flash the driver’s mirror with my 500 lumen patrol light. That always results with some choice words from the vehicle occupants. I immediately apologize and explain that I didn’t realize I flashed the light in the vehicle’s passenger compartment. They typically respond with “no you flashed the mirror and that’s where we were all looking”.
What I accomplished with that light in the mirror was about 4-7 seconds of disorientation on the part of anyone who was looking for me in the mirror. At the very least, I reduced their ability to see me clearly and mount any type of attack as I approached. I have had drivers who were not even capable of getting their drivers license out of their wallet after experiencing the mirror flash. Try it, you will like the results. Would you find any advantage in putting your aggressor in a situation that would take him about 90 seconds to regain approximately 70% of his ability to see what he had before you flashed him with the light? Would you consider that to be a tactical advantage to yourself? Sure you would.
In years past, some officers had their own ideas of alternative uses for their flashlight. To evaluate these applications is not the intent of this article. I do feel the need to at least address a couple of them if for no other reason than for their historical significance. Let’s look at some of those applications before we get into the force options I want to emphasize here.
Officers sometimes used the large lights in ways similar to a baton to cause pain compliance through pressure points and various joint locking techniques. Some officers routinely used the larger lights in a modified escort position when moving a handcuffed person.
Another application that immediately comes to mind is using the flashlight as an impact weapon. The size, shape and durability of the larger C and D cell Mag Lights made this application possible. After all, it is a natural progression to transition from using the light in a traditional sense to hitting someone with it when it is already in your hand and the need arises.
Many people say today’s “High Neck Index” technique evolved from the position many officers used as they held the large Mag Lights while in the Field Interview (FI) position. Many officers in anticipation of using the light as an impact tool would grasp the light with an ice pick type grip. With their support hand grasping the flashlight barrel very close to the bezel end near the side switch. See pic below:
He would then rest the butt end of the light high on his shoulder close to the base of his neck. In this position the heavy light was essentially cocked and ready to strike. This is much like the coiling of the bat a hitter in baseball does as he awaits the pitch. Additionally, this positioning of the light helped ease some of the stress and fatigue caused by holding the light away from the body.
Using the light as an impact weapon was not without risk or controversy. Significant injury to the aggressor was always a possibility. The civil liability and lack of formalized training were often issues the departments and individual officers faced. After a number of highly publicized injury cases, departments started to restrict the use of the large lights. The Detroit PD removed the large lights from service over 15 years ago after they paid five million dollars to settle the civil lawsuit regarding the alleged police flashlight beating death of Malice Green.
The Malice Green case and other similar incidents caused many law enforcement administrators to question how flashlights are used. In the eyes of some administrators this incident reinforced the need for a policy of not allowing officers to use the flashlight as a defensive impact tool. Others use this incident to illustrate the improper use of the flashlight, and to highlight what can happen to officers if they misuse this necessary tool. I have encountered a number of departments which do not have a policy on the reasonable defensive uses of a flashlight, leaving its use up to the discretion of the officer.
I believe it is only prudent for us to be exposed to the possible use of the flashlight as an impact weapon. Issues such as whether you were trained to use the flashlight as a defensive impact tool may come up in either criminal or civil litigation.
SureFireE2D, above, is one example of the smaller LED flashlights available today. Notice the Crenellated Strike Bezel and Scalloped tail cap that could prove valuable if the light was used as an impact weapon.
Light manufacturers have recognized the trend toward the dual use of the flashlight and have introduced small handheld LED lights specifically designed for both illumination and impact.
Next, High Quality – needed in aggressive situations