On How to Use a Flashlight? Hardly.

Klarus XT12S is my every day carry lamp

For the last couple years, cops in my police station have been collectively interested in buying quality flashlights for themselves. And I've enjoyed the conversations in roll call, generally sparked by some copper showing off his new lamp. We could categorize many of these debates under:

  • What aspects turn a flashlight into a "tactical" flashlight? 
  • Rechargeable versus Not.
  • How many lumens does it take to burn your retinas? 
  • Do you ever actually use the strobe feature?

Despite spending seventeen (17) years on the SWAT team, I've never really been a "gear monkey" when it comes to guns, knives, weapons optics, MOLLE pouches, or anything described as "tactical."  But ever since I was a rookie police officer, I've taken flashlights seriously. I got on the police force as MagLite D-cell versions were fading, and the market was being taken over by smaller  SureFire and Streamlight  models. At that time, pistol-mounted lights were nothing more than small tubular flashlights retro-fitted with new tailcaps and pressure pad switches! Among the favorite brands right now are Klarus Olight.

In the mid-2000s, my SWAT partner Froggy and I attended a three (3)-day low-light course at the FBI Chicago Training Facility. The training was provided by Mark Warren and Vaughn Baker of Strategos International; trainers & a company of which I had no previous knowledge or experience with.

This Strategos low-light course remains near the top of my list for best and most memorable training I've received.

Let me drop some context on this. I've attended somewhere in the realm of 5,000+ hours of training (mostly "tactical" in nature) in my police career, literally from across the country & beyond. SEAL Team 6. FBI HRT. LAPD. LASD. NYPD ESU. CPD HBT/SWAT. DEA. USMC. US Army MP SRT School. Dallas. Toronto. Delta Force. British SAS. London Met Firearms. South African military. You get the point. 

Yes, a class on how to use a flashlight. 

My theory: Because nobody teaches you this shit!

But also because of the style of instruction. It was the first, and remains among very few since, that did not focus on technique, but rather on concept. Warren and Baker had a very unique method to their teaching, where students were given principles that governed a whole variety of tactics and techniques. 

The class demanded that I think, not just replicate rehearsed motions. 

As probably expected, we discussed the physiological and psychological responses that might be triggered by light and/or darkness, in both ourselves and in others. But in a weird way, it made me consider how others saw me. (Obviously in terms of visual illumination, but also in much more abstract, non-visual, self-awareness ways too.) 

Whether intentional or not, the course demanded that we (students) re-evaluate our teams tactics and movements both inside and outside buildings. 

Yes, a class on how to use a flashlight. 

I don't think we in policing have done enough talking (dare I say "research") about the impact of lighting on a variety of police-citizen encounters:

  • threat identification, overall observations;
  • stress, anxiety, psychological impact;
  • posturing or tone set by red-blue lights;
  • impact of flashing lights on the road shoulder & crashes into the backs of squad cars.

I was fortunate to be trained by Jack Schonely of LAPD Air Support Division, who is also a former K9 Handler. That's a helluva great assignment combination to teach strategies and tactics for fleeing offenders! Use of lighting was a significant portion of the discussions. (I got to fly with LAPD ASD to experience first-hand how they collectively responded to an in-progress fleeing suspect.) This training and exposure changed the way I policed, both in the light of day and in the dark of night:

  • foot pursuits;
  • containment/perimeters;
  • yard-to-yard searching;
  • K9 tracking.

Now consider the roof-mounted LED flashing red-blue lights on marked police cars nowadays. The strobe patterns and ridiculous brightness can be quite distracting. There's simply no reason to use the same intensity at noon as at midnight (unless you're in northern Alaska, I guess). Using the principles from Strategos and Schonely, I adjusted nearly my entire use of overhead emergency lighting, arrow sticks, and strobes while on traffic control details, during car stops, behind disabled motorists, and while driving "lights & sirens."  

Many years later, I still use flashlights in all sorts of situations, according to the principles I learned from that Strategos class & a number of sessions with Schonely: Night-time policing. Walking the family dog in the neighborhood in the dark. Bicycling at dusk. Camping and hiking. 

With all this technology, we have a responsibility to develop the human minds to use it most effectively. And by "we," I include me. With this recent interest in flashlights around my police station, I've been happy to share some of these lessons with a new generation of cops. Most of whom will never attend this sort of or volume of formal training that I have been privileged to. As I near retirement, the burden to share these concepts gets heavier by the year. 

Even the seemingly small details of how to use a flashlight. 


I keep a Klarus HA2C 90° headlamp with me & just ordered a Guardian Angel Micro (orange/white)...for walking the dog at night.

Yes, all my kids' have LED bike lights. And yes, I tell them to turn them ON before the sun goes down. 

The most I've ever paid for a flashlight? $120 for a SureFire Aviator A2. Wasted money! 

Please don't make me list all the weapon-mounted lights I've owned over the years! 

And no, I don't receive any compensation for mentioning any product or company. 


Lou Hayes, Jr. is a criminal investigations & intelligence unit supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. With a passion for training, he studies human performance & decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability. Follow Lou on LinkedIn, & also the LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model


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