A Real LEO’s Take on Thermal

The first time I used thermal imaging, I was in Iraq – it was 2004. We used our thermals mainly for perimeter security; making sure no one was setting up fire positions, observation posts or setting up attacks under the cover of darkness. I was amazed by the technology. I couldn’t imagine anything better suited to our task, but a lot can happen in 15 years.

It’s now 2019 and I’ve been in law enforcement for several years, working as a Patrol Officer and SWAT Sniper. I have faced some of the same situations I did back in Iraq. While on SWAT, I was issued NVG since most of my patrol time and callouts have been at night. Night vision is a useful tool – giving law enforcement and SWAT the capability to work in the dark – but it has drawbacks. The image can be pixelated if there is not enough ambient light. If there is too much (or a sudden influx) of light, the image will wash out. It can be difficult to recognize identifiable shapes in the low contrast shades of green commonly used in generational night vision.

Thermal imaging, on the other hand, highlights the world in clear black and white. I got my hands on a set of Pulsar Accolade Laser Range Finding (LRF) thermal binoculars. Having everything you need in one compact unit is more than convenient – it’s an often-overlooked necessity. The last thing you need to worry about when things get real is digging through your kit.

The second I pulled the Accolade out of the box, I felt they were made to do the job. It doesn’t matter if that job is hunting coyotes, feral hogs, an escaped prisoner, someone who’s run and is hiding from the police or a lost hiker or child. Accolades are a seriously high-quality bit of kit and exactly what’s needed to get the job done. The applications are endless. Being a Sniper, my first thought was target recon. The 2.5x magnified image is crisp, making it easy to identify animals, people and weapons from a safe distance. In Law Enforcement and Military applications, this is a life-saving feature, allowing the good guys to get close enough to engage, and keeping the bad guys clueless.

Using the Accolade binoculars turns night into day, making it nearly impossible to hide. The features on the Accolades are great.  An integrated laser range finder, angle display, internal memory (to record), multiple color modes and more. For when time is of the essence, there is incremental zoom from 2.5x to 5x, 10x, 20x controlled by the push of a button. The image gets somewhat pixelated on max zoom (20x), so less is more unless looking for something at extreme distances.

Impressively, the Accolades include WiFi connectivity as well. After downloading Pulsar’s app, StreamVision, to my smartphone (also works for tablets), I was able to connect my Accolade, allowing remote control from the palm of my hand. I could see and control the Accolades the same as I could through the unit itself. This meant I could mount it on a tripod, minimizing risk and exposure to myself and clearly watch/control the unit. This feature allows streaming too (I’m thinking maybe to an incident/scene commander), giving them up to date information shown to command or an entry team planning the raid. Being able to record and send footage is something you usually only see in movies. Pulsar’s Accolade makes it a reality.

I am a strong proponent for the use of thermals within law enforcement and SWAT. I was happy to pass the Accolade LRF around to as many people at my agency as I could. The first reaction was the same for everyone: “Fricking awesome!” (response has been cleaned up for publication). The follow up to their reaction was “How can we get a pair?”. The reactions only intensified when I began showing them all the features. I would love to see a set or two in every department and SWAT team in the nation.

Bio: Pro Staffer, Pete Goode grew up in the United Kingdom and joined the Royal Marines Commandos at the age of 17. While serving he deployed to Iraq, represented the Royal Marines and Royal Navy on the combat shooting team, successfully completed the Royal Marines Commandos Sniper course and deployed on counter narcotics operations as a helicopter sniper. After leaving the Royal Marines, Pete immigrated to the United States. Once he earned his citizenship he applied to become a Police officer. As a police officer Pete has worked as a patrol officer, firearms instructor, detective and SWAT sniper team leader.

Follow Pete on Instagram @720threat

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