SOS: finding solutions for a troubled Earth

Criminal justice agencies step up to the environmental plate

  • The police department should realize approximately a 35-percent saving on its electricity bill.
  • Because the police department uses less electricity, it frees up a corresponding amount that can be used by the public, putting less stress on the city's system.
  • The solar power used by Rocklin PD saves the equivalent of 321 barrels of oil in greenhouse gas emissions. That's a total of 304,238 pounds of carbon dioxide prevented from release into the atmosphere via a natural gas plant.

     Depending on the cost of electrical power, the building is forecasted to save Rocklin taxpayers about $1 million over the next 25 years. To put the Rocklin project into perspective, Rocklin's efforts add up — it's the equivalent of 30 cars off the road.

     And Rocklin isn't the only agency finding ways to manage its facilities with a more earth-friendly approach. The Anaheim, California, Public Utilities operates roof-mounted distributed power generation systems called PowerGuard, manufactured by the Power Light Corp., as a means of supplementing other power sources.

     Most agencies on the alternative-power bandwagon see their investment as an "in it for the long haul" effort that will pay dividends for future generations.

'Flash' forward

     Campers understand the value of a flashlight that lasts as long as the famous bunny in the commercial, but what meets a camper's needs and the demands of law enforcement are radically different animals.

     When it comes to flashlights, law enforcement often trades ecological friendliness for performance. However, some companies have recognized the need for inexpensive, durable flashlights. Smart companies put together flashlights that don't chew batteries yet provide powerful illumination, particularly for tactical use.

     Any officer who's ever dropped a flashlight on the pavement can attest that those little bulbs are fragile, and in some of the higher-end tactical flashlights, they are also pricey to replace. LED flashlights represent one solution. TerraLUX Inc., even makes a light bulb upgrade to convert some Maglites from incandescent bulbs to LED. But in the flashlight wars, battery power is what makes or breaks a light's ecological impact.

     Some companies have manufactured flashlights that use rechargeable batteries. Pelican's 7060 LED dual-switch flashlight uses rechargeable lithium batteries. The batteries charge for approximately four hours and operate for 1 1/2 hours.

     Coast's newest entry into the energy efficient flashlight market is the LED Lenser P7, a police and military flashlight that runs 96 hours on four AAA batteries. In addition to a light output of 140 lumens, the small flashlight is 4.5 inches in length and weighs less than 7 ounces. The flashlight combines environmental responsibility with what counts most for law enforcement use — light output. "The LED is 10 times more efficient than the incandescent bulb," says Kevin Corcoran of the Portland, Oregon-based company.

     Corcoran says while most of law enforcement is transitioning from incandescent to LED, efficient power to operate police flashlights and reduce the amount of batteries in landfills is still evolving. Comparing the cost of ordinary lithium batteries used by a regular flashlight against the relatively miniscule number of batteries used by the P7, it becomes obvious departments can dramatically slash their battery budgets when opting for higher-efficiency flashlights.


     Deputy Chief Daniel Chambers of the Binghamton University Police Department, Binghamton, New York, says his department is constantly involved in an active search for ways to lower its impact on the environment. As part of that effort, the department deploys GEM (Global Electric Motorcar) vehicles around the campus for services that do not necessarily need a full-sized car, such as for escorts, building guards and parking enforcement. GEM, a Chrysler company, introduced its line of "neighborhood" vehicles approximately 10 years ago.

     The GEM vehicles, now numbering more than 35,000 on the road, are battery-powered, low-speed vehicles that travel at a maximum of 25 mph. Street-legal on most public roadways, GEM vehicles cost much less than an automobile and are many times more fuel efficient. Obviously, GEM vehicles do not have the horsepower to track down speeders, but in environments like college campuses or large parks, they are ideal — and growing in both popularity and possible applications. But Chambers says the vehicles are limited by natural obstacles such as the cold.

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