How Spectroline's multi-LED light can improve evidence collection
Once the first responders leave the scene, a walk-through with the OFK-8000a can provide a forensic team with a starting point and illumination for complex photography needs
I tested the Spectroline OPTIMAX Multi-Lite LED Forensic Inspection Kit, model OFK-8000a. This is a portable multi-LED light source designed to aid the investigator in locating and photographing forensic work.
Given my limited expertise in this area, I relied heavily on forensic experts when evaluating this product. We all agreed that this is a complete light source solution for law enforcement.
Different substances emit light (fluoresce) when exposed to certain alternative light sources. Alternative light sources are used to enhance the evidence and subdue the background for viewing. Bone fragments, teeth and similar organic items are more visible under UV and blue colored light.
It gets a bit more complicated when a background is multicolored. For example, finding decomposed materials in a field of debris may be a bit challenging for the naked eye, under white light. White light is actually a combination of many colors. A narrow banded source can help an investigator find decomposed material much easier.
Narrow banded alternative light sources might allow an item to fluoresce, but the viewing area may be flooded with white light. Investigators use contrast filters and colored spectacles to view their evidence. The OFK-8000a comes with three snap-on contrast filters (yellow, orange and red), and several pairs of multi-colored glasses. These filters attach behind the flashlight head. The advantage to using the filters is that an investigator can point out evidence to more than one person without having everyone wearing filtering spectacles.
The OFK-8000a consists of a cordless machined aluminum flashlight body with a rechargeable power source and eight interchangeable LED heads with dome lenses. The interchangeable heads use what the company calls a Quik-Connect coupling device to attach to the power source. Users can quickly change light sources by uncoupling the head and using a different one.
The cordless flashlight body runs about 90 minutes per charge. The kit comes with both wall and vehicle plugs. The light runtime is about 90 minutes. Charge time is approximately five hours.
The OFK-8000a uses stabilizing circuitry for the power source. This ensures that the beam is consistent throughout the charge cycle of the battery. It may not be particularly noticeable to the user during an evidence sweep, but it is obvious to the photographer.
In any given crime scene, the need for going from one light source to another is very high. There are simple contrasting needs for photography. For example, viewing untreated blood against a dark background requires a violet light source and possibly a yellow filter. However, if the same blood is found on a white background, then it will need more blue in the light source. Once the first responders leave the scene, a walk-through with the OFK-8000a can provide a forensic team with a starting point and illumination for complex photography needs.
There are eight heads in the kit: UV, violet, blue, cyan, green, amber, red and white. The heads are color-coded and marked with the product number so the user can quickly identify them. They are made of heavy machined aluminum, with a fixed dome lens which is slightly recessed to protect the lens.
The product number, which is printed on the side of each flashlight head, includes the dominant wavelength of the emitter. For example, the blue interchangeable LED lamp head is the OF-450AB. The dominant wavelength of this particular product is 450 nm.
The light output itself is critical in this type of kit. I tested the bandwidth accuracy for some of the emitters. Compared to other forensic light sources, the OFK-8000a output volume is much higher. For example, the OF-365AUV head, which provides (UV) output of 360 – 370 nm 310 mW of light output. This is a little more than double the output of similar products. This allows the investigator at the scene to give the evidence a little room, thus avoiding contamination. The emitters are a little more focused than similar light sources. That is, they emit a beam rather than a flood. Spectroline has taken safety into consideration by using a well recessed green indicator lamp which lets people know that the light is on, even though the actual beam is not visible to the naked eye.
Who should use this product?
The light sources here are fairly complete for a person trained in forensic science. However, the portability of the kit also loans itself well to any sized investigative unit. Even a small agency whose investigators pull double duty would get a lot of use out of the OFK-8000a. The individual modules are extremely durable and it comes with an organizer kit designed with banging around in the back of a sergeant’s vehicle in mind.
I found that there are similar products with similar features, but nothing comes close to the utility and quality of this package.