Attention all Law Enforcement this is for you! Hank Minor, our Law Enforcement Product Manager is sharing insights from his lengthy career as a LEO and the impact and application of our LE Tactical Lights within Law Enforcement.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be involved with CORE Survival?
Answer: In 1988, I enlisted in the USAF as a Law Enforcement Specialist and served on active duty stationed at Wheeler AF, Hawaii for four years. After active duty, I continued as a Reservist for another 7 years at Westover ARB in Massachusetts. After that, I served 25 years on the Manchester, CT Police Department, retiring in February of 2019.
I’ve had several specialties in my career. I spent 7 years as a K-9 handler, working two dogs in that timespan. Part of my K-9 duties included supporting a Regional SWAT team serving eight towns. I was promoted to Sergeant and had to leave K-9 handling, but this allowed me to become an entry team member on SWAT.
We eventually expanded to ten towns and a major State University as our area of responsibility. During my time on the team, I became involved in our night vision program because I had some limited experience using it in the military, primarily PVS-5 and PVS-7.
I tested different manufacturers and developed lesson plans to teach the team how to zero lasers and use the PVS-14 NVG. I later became an explosive Breacher and eventually certified as a Master Breacher. I held several Instructor certifications in many disciplines during my career including as a Firearms Instructor for pistol, shotgun, rifle, mechanical, ballistic breaching, and less lethal. I became a TASER instructor early in its infancy and eventually became a Master Instructor and Senior Master Instructor. I served as a Traffic Supervisor and was a team leader for a Regional Traffic Unit responsible for accident reconstruction and enforcement.
I had the opportunity to test and evaluate CORE Survival’s HEL-STAR 6® light as an option for team identification in both visible and IR modes. I found it to be a superior product to others on the market but I was aware it was primarily designed for military applications.
I have known Jamey Caldwell for many years and was fortunate to attend SHOT Show with him in 2019. At range day, several SWAT Officers approached the CORE Survival Booth and asked about SWAT applications and uses for both HEL-STAR 6® and HEL-STAR EXO®.
Having used the product for a couple years allowed me to help answer their questions. After some discussions with the CORE team, a standard LE model was developed for the HEL-STAR 6® and a K-9 model was born using the EXO chassis. Now, a year later, and retired, I began consulting as CORE Survival’s Law Enforcement Product Manager.
- What are some of the significant features of CORE’s LE Tactical Lights that would be of benefit to Law Enforcement personnel?
- As Law Enforcement continues to develop the use of night vision devices, IR cameras on drones during operations, and the use of helicopters with FLIR and IR cameras, the need for marking devices also increases. The HEL-STAR 6® military model was redesigned with LE features to make it easy for Agencies to pick a helmet light for SWAT, dive teams and riot control.
HEL-STAR 6® offers two visible and two IR modes. During white light night shoots, you can mark the end of your firing line with green lights and put red lights on your instructors to identify them too. Under night vision/ IR cameras, the light functions in two IR modes. A dim IR flash, and a dim IR steady light. Teams can decide how to mark team members by using the two modes.
As an example, a Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader can use the IR dim flash mode to ID their location while the other entry team members use the dim IR steady mode. Anyone under NVG’s can easily identify the team, or if using a drone, the IR camera can send images back to the commander so that he can see the exact location of his team. We decided to use a dim LED as we didn’t want to have a bright light that blinds or whites out the team members in close quarters with each other. Let’s face it, we don’t need a bright LED to be seen by a high-altitude drone like the military does.
Our K-9 model, based on the EXO chassis, was developed to easily mount on a K-9 vest or tracking harness. The smaller light, with skeleton LED bar makes it easy for the handler and back up Officers to see where the dog is during the operation. When I was a K-9 handler, I used cheap lights and chem lights to try and mark my dog, and it just didn’t work out, so having a light that can be seen easily is a real asset.
Obviously, both lights can be used for many applications. There are several SWAT members that use the HEL-STAR EXO® as their primary helmet light, and there are handlers that use the HEL-STAR 6® on the K-9. Officers can also use the light to mark property, the location of assets or the target location of a search or arrest warrant without alerting the suspects.
Other Officers are using the light to mark rescue/recovery divers, marking riot control team elements, and marking search and rescue teams. Any application you can think of, CORE Survival has the light that will work for you at an affordable price point.
- What are some of the challenges that these products can help LE users combat?
- The primary use for these lights is to identify SWAT personnel on an operation to assist in command and control, both overt with visible colored lights, and IR under night vision. Commanders in the field can easily locate and identify their personnel.
For the K-9, working at night, it can identify the location of the dog during its search pattern or on track. The light can be mounted in a location on the dog’s back where suspects cannot see it, so no compromise exists.
It also helps that this light is priced affordably as the challenges of public safety budgets are identified and recognized.
- Have these products been tried and tested by the LE community, and what has been the response to date?
- HEL-STAR 6® Gen III was tested and evaluated by the NTOA Member Tested Program with excellent reviews and feedback. NTOA members are encouraged to look up the product on at www.NTOA.org. I have heard from K-9 handlers and SWAT team members who have previously used military strobes and they see CORE Survival products as durable, easy to use, and priced fairly.
- Generally speaking Law Enforcement tends to be chronically underfunded are there any specific purchasing avenues or agencies that users can utilize to acquire these products?
- Many of the LE grants have dried up over time, or have been cut down to address specific items, such as body armor. CORE Survival has priced their products with agency budgets in mind and, with an awareness that many LE Officers frequently purchase their own equipment, when the department budget falls short. I can’t even begin to add up how much of my own money I have spent throughout my career on both products and training. I think compared to other manufacturers, CORE’s products are both superior in design and offered at an affordable price point.
- As a LEO what are some of the challenges you and your colleagues have to deal with personally and professionally?
- Over my 25 year career, I have experienced times where the Police were vilified or admired and respected. It swings in cycles. When I started in 1994, in general, people respected one another, and in turn respected the Police. In today’s world, there is less respect for each other in general, and in turn less respect for the Police. The difference now, is that there seems to be a more aggressive and violent dislike for the Police and I believe it is due to the political environment, and how the Police are treated in the media.
Professionally, Officers have to be aware that everything they do will be on video. If they do their job correctly, and treat people with respect, dignity and worth, they will be able to navigate a successful career.
Personally, the toll the Police lifestyle takes on a person is varied. Police Officers see and deal with things that most people do not have to experience. Lack of sleep, isolation from friends and family over time affects you. To combat becoming negative and salty, Officers have to rely on the strong support of family and friends. Officers also need to have non-Law Enforcement hobbies and activities that help reduce stress. Officers also need to embrace the Employee Assistance program and seek counselling after critical incidents. It does work, and it is not a sign of weakness to seek help.
- U.S Law Enforcement Agencies are sometimes criticized for being overly “militarized” – what are your thoughts on that subject?
- I would have to say that the limited number of people that think Law Enforcement has become too “Militarized” have not had the experience of arresting arrest violent people who wish to harm the public and the Police.
For example, one of the agencies I worked for had an old armored truck called a peacekeeper which we obtained from the Air Force. Some of the locals questioned the need for this vehicle. Then we had an incident in town where a suspect in a house opened fire on the Police and took his family hostage. The suspect fired indiscriminately and shot at several houses, cars and, buildings in the area. The armored truck was used to evacuate and rescue Officers that were pinned down while providing protection to the residents. After that, the need for such equipment became clear.
Equipment used by SWAT teams has evolved from military units because the equipment works in specific situations, situations that really didn’t exist 30 years ago. Regular Patrol Officers do not give a military impression to the public. Specialized teams have a different and limited role. The use of military style equipment which works to resolve major incidents should not be looked upon negatively. For the most part I believe there is much more support in our communities than push back.
- In your experience has the role of a LEO in today’s society changed or evolved since you graduated from Police Academy?
- The role of Law Enforcement has changed, and so has the technology. When I started in the early 90’s, the role of the Police focused primarily on law enforcement. We actively patrolled areas and responded to calls for service that were of an investigative nature.
Later in my career, and up to today the role has changed to include dealing with mental health issues, advocacy, and referrals to community or social services and, community involved policing. The Police these days are called for any imaginable incident, whether or not they are the best people to handle the situation.
The Police are being asked to handle situations they have never been trained to handle, it seems that if somebody has a problem, they call the Police. In many instances the Police can refer them to the proper department or service organization if they cannot handle it. However, the role of enforcement and investigation seem to have been moved to the back burner.
- How important and to what degree is the use of K9’s involved in today’s LE operations and what assistance can CORE’s LE Tactical Lights offer K9 handlers?
- K-9’s are very valuable assets to the LE community. The roles the dogs play vary from tracking lost and injured people to article recovery, narcotic detection, suspect tracking, building searches, explosive detection, and security sweeps for deterrence and apprehension.
Having worked as a dog handler for 7 years, I understand the role of the K9 and the value it brings to any Police Department. Officers have an inherent trust in the dog to do its job. The dog can do many necessary tasks quicker and more efficiently than their human counterparts.
CORE’s K-9 light is well suited to identify the location of the Handler/K-9 Team while on the track or search using both visible light and IR. Using visible light, the handler has a visual cue to the location of the dog, and the light can be mounted so as not to not alert suspects of the team’s location.
Handlers, air assets and other Officers under NVG can also track the location easily using the IR setting. During training, the instructor and handler can see the efficiency of the dog’s movements during off-lead scouts and area searches at night. This gives the handler an indication of any distinct changes in the body posture of the dog when it gets into or out of odor on a track. Their light weight and the simplicity of mounting them on a vest or collar eliminates complicated buckles making them super easy to use.