ICX Technologies' SkyWatch mobile observation tower at POLICE-TREXPO West's range day. Photo by Paul Clinton.
Once again, POLICE-TREXPO West exceeded my expectations. And once again, I came away with greater knowledge and appreciation for the law enforcement profession and also for SWAT—a profession within a profession.
Day Two and Three: The expo is a golden opportunity to check out dozens of new, innovative, unique products designed for tactical officers. I find it amazing that despite the current down economy, new products for LE continue to be invented. Expo attendees got the opportunity to go hands-on with many tactical products.
One of the most impressive new tactical items of equipment is the Oshkosh Defense's Tactical Protector Vehicle (TPV). The TPV is modeled after Oshkosh's widely used military armored vehicle. While armor specs are "classified," suffice it to say, the TPV is designed to survive practically any armed encounter.
Oshkosh's vast ARV experience is evident in the TPV's mechanics, armor, and handling ability. A definite plus, especially on narrow urban streets, the TPV turning radius is ultra-tight, with an equally ultra-smooth ride.
Getting in and out of the TPV is, by design, easy—another plus for SWAT operators laden with 50 pounds of gear.
Another plus are the gunports, which can be customized to suit the needs of the requesting agency. My personal preference is the more gunports, the better—something Oshkosh can readily accommodate.
Armored Rescue Vehicles (ARVs) have become a staple among a growing number of SWAT teams throughout the U.S. and Canada. The reason is obvious; ARVs save lives by protecting those inside. As such, ARVs are widely deployed today by SWAT teams everywhere.
Just as there are numerous life-saving tactical applications for employing ARVs, there is a growing number of ARVs to choose from. When it comes to ARVs, one size doesn't necessarily fit all. Depending on their design and capabilities, ARVs are as job specific as the "special" weapons and tactics employed by SWAT teams.
I'll be the first to admit how impressed I am by the new Oshkosh Tactical Protector Vehicle. The TPV is definitely a big-ticket item. However, for those who are in the market for an ARV, the TPV is definitely worth serious consideration.
Day Four: Range Day at the Long Beach PD's firearms range was a great opportunity to try out many of the firearms with someone else supplying the ammo.
Two recent products caught my eye at Range Day. One, a big ticket item. The other, affordable enough for any LEO to buy on their own. Both are innovative and practical/tactical.
First was SkyWatch, a high-level tactical platform from ICX Technologies. First thing I saw when I arrived at LBPD Range was SkyWatch, looming 25 feet above the range. I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical about how practical this idea is for law enforcement. I was curious enough to learn more, and to my pleasant surprise, I walked away a believer.
What is SkyWatch? It's a hydraulically operated, high-level platform, scissoring to a height of 25 feet. Built into its own trailer/base, it's roadworthy enough to be trailered at highway speeds.
SkyWatch is totally self-contained with an onboard power source that lasts five days, size to comfortably fit two personnel, heat/AC, 360-degree viewing via tinted windows, a "fail-safe" hydraulic system to prevent tampering and electrical outlets.
Options include a variety of camera features (zoom, IR, etc.), a camera to view beneath the platform, recording, and roof spotlights.
The most "tactical" option is SkyWatch can be armored (to NIJ Level IV - 7.62AP) with gunports on its four sides. The armor option allows SkyWatch to be employed in nearly any police situation, ranging from a counter-sniper platform to crowd-control observation platform and beyond.
At first, you can't help but notice SkyWatch, but it didn't take long before it actually blended into a normal background, which is a definite plus during a police/SWAT operation. Also, at a height of 25 feet, with zoom camera and/or optics, SkyWatch can be strategically positioned away from the operational target, which makes SkyWatch even more effective and less noticeable.
If TPV and SkyWatch are big-ticket expense and size equipment items, this next item is at the opposite end of the size and expense spectrum.
I'm referring to custom earplugs from Flashbang Gear, which are the brainchild of Mark Agular, an active/veteran LAPD Metro Division officer.
How many times has someone in LE come up with a really good, useful idea without going beyond the idea stage? Then, years later, someone else comes up with the same idea and markets it. Not so with Mark Agular, who has turned his custom earplugs into an affordable reality for anyone in LE.
Mark set up his tent and equipment display at POLICE-TREXPO West's Range Day. Everyone was required to wear "eyes and ears," ranging from ear muffs to generic plugs.
Amidst the sound of rifle and pistol gunfire, attendees began checking out Mark's tent, and soon, a number of them were being custom-fitted with new custom earplugs. My generic earplugs were adequate (from a distance), so it wasn't long before my curiosity got the better of me.
During a lull in fittings, I talked with Mark about his custom earplugs, and learned they come in a variety of styles and colors including "SWAT black." Styles include solid, electronic and filtered plugs.
The filtered earplugs are of particular interest to all those in SWAT. Filtered earplugs carry a 21-decibel noise reduction rating—enough reduction to prevent hearing damage while shooting firearms and deploying flashbangs and also capable of hearing normal talking.
A growing number of SWAT teams in the southwestern U.S., and especially Southern California, are requiring all team personnel to wear filtered custom earplugs during training and operational deployments. U.S. military personnel are also wearing the filtered plugs during training and in combat zones.
I was now convinced enough to try them out, especially since I was at the range. So I bought a pair of filtered plugs for myself. The fitting was easy, and 30 minutes later, Mark handed me my new filtered custom earplugs.
During what I thought was a lull in the shooting, I removed the plugs from my ears. Just then, the "CRACK, CRACK" of rifle fire jarred me. Quickly back into my ears went the plugs—to the muted sound of "pop, pop" instead.
Perhaps it was unscientific, but the test proved the filtered custom earplugs do the job at an affordable cost. I very highly recommend every SWAT or tactical team check out Flashbang Gear's custom earplugs for themselves.