Perhaps more than any other trade show, the Tactical Response Expo (TREXPO) is susceptible to changes in schedule brought on by world and national events. So it was at the 2004 TREXPO West held March 22-25 in Long Beach, Calif.
Anyone who wanted a reminder of the deadly serious reason why TREXPO exists needed to look no further than the hallway outside the conference's seminar area. There, affixed to the door of a darkened classroom, you would have found a piece of goldenrod-colored copy paper bearing the typewritten message that a TREXPO presentation had been canceled.
The fact that a seminar was canceled at a trade show is not significant. It happens all the time. What was significant was the reason. The presentation titled "Mass Transit Security and Crisis Response for Local Law Enforcement" was canceled because instructor Dave Martin, branch chief of the Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security could not attend. In the wake of the devastating bombings of the Madrid mass transit system, Martin was called away from TREXPO to help shore up U.S. mass transit security.
Cancellation of the mass transit security seminar was a major disappointment to attendees of this year's show. But there wasn't an individual in the Long Beach Convention Center who didn't understand the reason for the cancellation and respect it. That's the nature of TREXPO and the nature of the dedicated men and women who attend it.
Still, despite the cancellation of the mass transit seminar, the classes and hands-on defensive tactics programs at TREXPO West were extremely popular and offered the attendees a broad range of information.
Long before 9/11 anti- and counter-terrorism training were essential topics in the classrooms at TREXPO. And since the attacks, terror concerns have played a major role in the planning of TREXPO presentations.
At this year's TREXPO West, terrorism-related seminars included a four-hour discussion of terrorist tactics and methods, instruction on how to organize Red Team exercises that cast cops as terrorists, a repeat of a popular four-hour course on what American cops can learn from the Israeli experience with homicide bombers, a threat assessment discussion, and a session covering how officers can make an objective analysis of potential targets in their communities.
Taught by Tracy-Paul Warrington, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces warrant officer, "Community Vulnerability Analysis" taught officers how to assess the strategic value and vulnerability of infrastructure, buildings, and other facilities using the CARVER Matrix. The CARVER Matrix is a five-point scale that is used by military planners to determine the value of economic and strategic targets. Each target is scored based on criticality, accessibility, recuperability, vulnerability, effect on the populace, and recognizability. Using this system, officers can objectively analyze what targets are attractive to terrorists in their jurisdictions and allocate resources to protect them when possible.
Some of the most popular programs at each TREXPO are the hands-on physical training sessions, and TREXPO West 2004 was no exception.
Defensive tactics training available at this year's TREXPO West included: "Close Quarters Combatives" taught by Louis Marquez, director of training for FIST Inc., and Hans Marrero, chief instructor for Taser International; "Weapon Retention/Disarming /Recovery Skills for Tactical Team Members," taught by Eric Edgecomb of North Eastern Tactical Schools; "Assault Survival Training for Law Enforcement, taught by Richard Machowicz of the Bukido Institute; and "Integrating Weapons into Defensive Tactics Training," taught by Gary Klugiewicz, director of training at Fox Valley Technical College.
First and foremost TREXPO is a SWAT show and the class schedule at TREXPO West 2004 hammers that point home. Out of 22 total classes, nine are specifically directed toward the training and development of SWAT officers.
SWAT-specific programs at TREXPO West included classes on fitness standards, the history of high-profile tactical incidents, SWAT leadership training, explosive breaching policies, SWAT duty assignments and task-specific training, the adoption of new technology to the SWAT mission, ballistic shield tactics, and the selection and training of snipers.
As part of his program on effective use of the ballistic shield, retired NYPD Emergency Services Unit officer Al Baker demonstrated his invention, the Baker Batshield. Baker's unique take on the police ballistic shield looks like something that Bruce Wayne might pull out of the trunk of the Batmobile, but Baker says it is a much improved design for a ballistic shield and he believes it offers police officers vital protection in tactical incidents. Baker demonstrated a number of maneuvers using the NIJ Level IIIA shield.
Another popular SWAT-specific seminar at TREXPO West was a lecture on how new technologies can be adapted to SWAT operations, which was presented by Commander Sid Heal of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Heal is an advocate of what he calls the "Fifth Dimensional" battlespace. In this model, police and military operations are conducted not just in terms of length, width, height or depth, and time, but also in the fifth dimension of cyberspace. Heal envisions that, in the near future, tactical officers will be able to consult with experts thousands of miles away by using wireless Internet systems.
Although TREXPO is primarily a SWAT exposition, the seminars and classes at TREXPO West also addressed issues that are relevant to patrol officers. These seminars included a well attended and well received lecture on street gangs by Sgt. Richard Valdemar of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, a presentation on the modular nature of police training taught by John T. Meyer, Jr., director of tactical operations for Fox Valley Technical Institute; and a discussion of the deployment of patrol carbines by Jeff Gonzales, director of training for Trident Concepts LLC.
For several year's now, Valdemar's class on "Career Criminals" has been one of the most popular classroom programs at TREXPO West. Valdemar is a dynamic speaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of gang culture and history, and his class is powerful and informative, covering tattoos, initiation rites, and gang behavior inside correctional facilities.