The term "wall of light" typically refers to a law enforcement tactic involving the use of powerful, blinding lights to disorient individuals during various situations. This tactic is often employed in crowd control, search operations, and riot control.
When employing a wall of light, a police officer or security guard shines a powerful flashlight on a suspect or person of interest while simultaneously giving orders to surrender or restraining the individual. The intense light forces people to shield their eyes or otherwise look away from the officer, making it difficult for them to draw a weapon or resist arrest, which is why the “wall of light” is also known as “defensive illumination.”
Civilians can use this tactic to avoid potential life-threatening situations by shining their lights at an aggressor or wild animal. If the light in question is attached to a pistol, it would allow positive threat identification which would prevent accidental discharge on a non-hostile target. Used with a standard handheld tactical light, a wall of light would cause flash blindness, giving a brief window to retreat.
The blinding effect of high-intensity lights can disorient and temporarily incapacitate individuals, making it difficult for them to see and react effectively. Aside from preventing potentially dangerous suspects from reaching for weapons, this can be particularly useful in crowd control situations to disperse or control unruly crowds without resorting to more aggressive measures.
Officers also use walls of light in a variety of situations, from nighttime traffic stops to search and rescue operations, to provide better visibility and safety for officers and others involved. Tactical lights can also be used to see through tinted windows to provide an extra layer of safety for officers who don’t want to be caught unawares. A patrol car’s spotlight can also be shined in the rear-view mirror of a car during a traffic stop to prevent drivers from violently reacting to an approaching officer.
The "wall of light" tactic can be subject to misuse or overuse by law enforcement, potentially leading to excessive force and violating the rights of individuals. This raises concerns about the potential for abuse of power.
On the other side of the fence, law enforcement officers are fully aware of the power of a high intensity tactical flashlight. In 2020, an El Paso man was charged with a felony assault for shining his light at a sheriff’s deputy in an unmarked car in his driveway. The civilian, who lived in a high crime area, assumed it was a suspicious individual, but was arrested since the officer counted his actions as an assault. Charges were dropped when a judge ruled the El Paso man had no malicious intent.
The "wall of light" tactic is only one of many non-lethal tactics used by law enforcement and may not always be effective, particularly against determined or well-prepared individuals. In some cases, it can even escalate tensions and provoke a violent response.
One of the most effective flashlights for “walls of light” are INFORCE tactical lights. These tactical flashlights are compatible with rifles or helmets with high candela counts. The WMLx Gen 3, for example, boasts 10,000 candelas of beam intensity. This allows them to shine an intense, concentrated beam, making them perfect to use for “walls of light.”
While this law enforcement tactic has both advantages and disadvantages and has proven itself to be a valuable non-lethal tool for disorientation and crowd control, it must be used with caution, considering the potential for misuse, ethical concerns, and its overall effectiveness. The appropriateness of using this tactic should be evaluated in each specific situation, with a focus on minimizing harm and respecting individual rights.