Federal officers who have been responding to violent riots across the country are facing the grim reality of a new attack that can leave them blind. Handheld laser pointers, powerful enough to damage the human eye, are commonly brought to riots and shined at officers. The lasers can easily cause vision problems and blindness. Rioters are commonly seen shining green lasers into the cameras, buildings, and the eyes of officers. This tactic is becoming more common as rioters find ways to cause maximum damage with minimum risk.
The Deputy Director of Operations at Federal Protective Service told reporters at a press conference about the growing problem. Three federal officers in Portland are facing lifelong vision problems after just a few short moments of exposure to the lasers. Rioters who carry these lasers can easily hide in the middle of a crowd and disappear before being stopped.
Shining lasers in this fashion could be considered using a deadly weapon. Causing great bodily harm to people is not forgivable just because it’s a readily available item. Knowingly shining lasers at anyone, especially officers, should be considered assault with a deadly weapon. It varies by state, but first degree aggravated assault is when the act is done with deliberate and premeditated malice aforethought. Basically, intentionally attempting to cause bodily injury.
Response to the use of lasers is problematic. Goggles or visors are somewhat effective but the practice has become so common that it’s not easy to properly protect officers. Gaps around glasses or times when officers aren’t wearing helmets are still a major risk. It only takes a fraction of a second for lasers to have effect on vision.
Pilots have been struggling with lasers for quite some time. Police helicopters in particular have often reported problems with handheld lasers shined by people on the ground causing vision problems. Pilots in flight losing vision is a tremendous risk for everyone. Punishment for using a laser on an aircraft is severe, however tracking down suspects and then proving they shined it is nearly impossible.
In military applications, coatings on cockpits and special color visors can all add up to new levels of protection. This laser warfare presents a new cat-and-mouse for people fighting authority and it’s evolving rapidly. Lasers are still widely available on the open market and even industrial strength diodes can be sourced without much trouble. There’s some restriction on laser diodes but it’s token at best. The rate of development makes it difficult for legislation and lawmakers to keep up.