Know What The Police Know: Force Option Often Overlooked

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.

img alt="628x471" src="" width="325" height="223"">628x471Use 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:

img alt="Surefire" src="" width="325" height="179"">Surefire 

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.

img alt="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." src="" width="135" height="170"">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.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

If you have a quality light source, and you know how to use it, you can gain the advantages as stated above every time you confront an aggressor in a diminished light environment. I can’t stress enough that in order to see those results you must have training, quality equipment, and the confidence to apply the appropriate techniques. If you are to have a reasonable expectation of the aggressor’s disorientation, you must know the light flashed in his eyes is free of any dark spots or light quality imperfections. See picture below of poor quality light.

img alt="Bloblight" src="" width="325" height="174"">BloblightMake sure that your tactical light is high-quality and focused correctly.

Make sure the light you select and use will project a clean beam/pattern free of any dark spots. Many instructors say you must have a light with a minimum of 80 lumens. I prefer a minimum of 120 lumens. Too many people, using light as a force option is a new dynamic. I can’t remember ever seeing “The Use of Light” in any of the footnotes that accompany the various Use of Force continuum charts I have looked at. Whether the concept is new to you or not, it deserves your consideration.

Look at both the offensive and defensive applications of quality light as you begin to assess the feasibility of adding light as a force option to your defensive toolbox. We already have enough going against us as we often find ourselves in a reactive mode. How many times have you been told “Action is faster than Reaction”? We all know it to be true.

Look at the effective deployment of a quality light as another tool to help us win.   We are often working in a diminished light environment when we are confronted with a lethal encounter. The very fact that we are in less than desirable lighting conditions means we more than likely are using some type of artificial light.   But, as stated earlier, most of us are only using the light in a traditional sense. In other words, to navigate, investigate, or perhaps communicate.

I tell my civilian students all the time that what makes the “key chain mini-baton” so effective as a defensive weapon is the fact that they have it in their hand when they are most likely to need it, (i.e. opening the car door, office door or house door). So let’s look again at the previous paragraph. There you are in a low light environment with the flash light in your hand and you need to take some defensive or offensive action as a result of the aggressor’s actions. Does it not stand to reason that if you can gain the advantage (either defensive or offensive) by deploying the tool you already have in your hand, you should do it? We all know being the first to gain the advantage in this environment can often lead to victory.

The advantages of such actions are many and go way beyond reaction time in its purest sense. When you consider the reduction in motor skill performance and the time wasted as you decide what tool you are going to deploy after you do something with the light that is already in your hand, the advantages are apparent.   After all we will extend both our reaction time and our movement time if we choose to deploy a tool other than what we already have in our hand.

Don’t miss understand me, I am all about getting rid of anything that will not be of benefit to us during those critical situations. At a minimum, the coordinated, efficient deployment of a quality flashlight is a tremendous equalizer. In fact, personally I have always felt the light has given me a distinct advantage over my adversary.

I hope you find some insight in this article that will allow you to look at the flashlight as more that a source of light and learn to use it in nontraditional ways.

Thanks to the team at The Shooting Channel for this post – take a moment to check their site, click here.

Ed Santos is author of the books “Rule the Night Win the Fight” published 2008 and his latest “Low-Light Combatives” published 2013. He is the Owner/Founder of Center Target Sports, Inc. and Tactical Services Group. He teaches advanced firearm skills and Low-light training around the world and can be reached

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Know What The Police Know: Force Option Often Overlooked


Know What The Police Know: Force Option Often Overlooked

Know What The Police Know: Force Option Often Overlooked


Know What The Police Know: Force Option Often Overlooked

Know What The Police Know: Force Option Often Overlooked


Know What The Police Know: Force Option Often Overlooked