When the doors opened March 18 on TREXPO West 2002 at the Long Beach (Calif.) Convention Center a number of questions were answered. Tops on the list was how would the horrific events of Sept. 11 affect the nation's premier show for tactical law enforcement officers?
It would be false and foolish to claim that 9-11 didn't leave a mark on the TREXPO audience and on the exhibitors who were displaying their latest products and technologies at the show. But it would be equally false to overestimate the importance of 9-11 on the market for tactical law enforcement equipment and the methods for its use. After all, the average police SWAT team in the United States is more likely to be confronted with a barricaded bank robber than a cadre of foreign terrorists.
That doesn't mean that police departments, and indeed the average citizen, shouldn't remain vigilant against additional assaults from organized terrorist networks. It's just that the threat of Al Qaeda doesn't supercede the everyday work of preserving law and order that remains the primary mission of police agencies.
This reality was clearly reflected in the exhibits on the trade show floor of TREXPO West. For every piece of gear targeted specifically toward nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) attacks, there were 20 or 30 others that applied to the needs of tactical officers in serving high-risk warrants, breaching structures, and smoking out and neutralizing hostage takers.
Some impressions of the trends evident on the TREXPO West show floor follow:
Worst Case Scenarios
As expected, the first TREXPO since the 9-11 terrorist attacks and last fall's anthrax murders included the latest tools for coping with nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks (NBC). Gas mask and hazard suit manufacturers were in much evidence on the show floor.
Defense Technology Corp. of America and Federal Laboratories showed the Advantage 1000 gas mask developed for law enforcement applications, including response to a chemical or biological attack. The Advantage 1000 provides effective protection against tear gas, as well as blister (mustard), nerve (sarin), choking (phosgene), and blood agents (hydrogen cyanide).
KX Defense was on the floor with its MF-10 military/police gas mask. The 1.5- pound mask comes in three sizes and offers a total visual field of 75 percent normal vision. It includes a drinking water access system, and KX claims it protects against all known NBC threats.
Tex-Shield was on hand with its Saratoga Hammer Suit, a mil-standard garment for chemical warfare protection. The Hammer Suit is a two piece or coverall system with a hood. It's made of two layers of liquid repellent material with a carbon liner.
Xymid displayed its Lanx overgarments and undergarments. The Lanx fabric can actually be tailored into any uniform style or combined with other fabrics, including nylon and cotton. Protection from chemical and biological agents is provided by polymerically encapsulated activated carbon.
One of the most intriguing aspects of TREXPO West was the number of high-tech companies with products on display. Case in point was Alertcast, a new company that is marketing a truly innovative radio product that is sure to save the lives of both civilians and public safety personnel.
Alertcast's Alert 1000 Emergency Radio Transmitter is one possible answer to a growing problem, failure of motorists to yield to approaching emergency vehicles. The inventors of Alert 1000 believe that the problem is the agressive soundproofing of contemporary passenger vehicles, which shields the occupants from the noise of sirens. Their solution is a transmitter that can be installed in emergency vehicles that will override car and truck radios and alert motorists half a mile away that a police car or other emergency vehicle is approaching. Of course many contemporary motorists listen to CD players and tape decks rather than the radio, but Alertcast's management believes that if these people see other cars pull over, they will notice the emergency vehicle and get out of the way.