PepperBall booth with prototype less-lethal machine gun intended for the military.
As you walk around a big industry show, there are certain things that people ask you. Popular topics of discussion include such oldies but goodies as: What do you think of the show? How's the traffic in your booth?
And my favorite, What's new and cool on the floor?
That last one is a tough question, but it's also the mission statement for a journalist assigned to cover a trade show, find the new and the cool, and tell the audience about it. The only problem is that working a big trade show, say the recent International Association of Chiefs of Police show held at the end of October in Philadelphia, is overwhelming.
A show like IACP often involves about a thousand or more exhibitors, hawking a wide variety of products and services. And after walking around talking to them, all the information starts to run together. Consequently, when somebody asks you what's cool at the show, your brain searches for some response, but it can't really think of anything.
Truthfully, standing on the show floor with arms full of promotional literature is not the best place to come up with an overview of what you are seeing. Perspective comes later when you sit down with all that literature at your desk and try to come to some conclusion about what you saw a week ago.
That's exactly what this article is about. Two weeks after IACP, I'm going through the box of literature and all the notes taken by myself and associate editor Melanie Hamilton at IACP and trying to gain perspective on the show. And I've come to this conclusion, there was no one major theme to the show. It was a very eclectic show, and there wasn't one blockbuster announcement or product release; there were many significant ones.
Here's our look at the coolest new products shown or introduced at the 110th IACP show.
As always, simulators were a big attraction at IACP, with cops lining up to take their turn working the scenarios. This year one of the most popular scenarios was the less-lethal modeling now available for the AIS/PRISim system. The simulator now offers scenarios that involve the use of Tasers, PepperBall guns, OC spray, and flashlights. The sim's software plays a reaction that equals the level of force used by the officer. For example, if an officer Tasers a subject, he falls to the ground subdued but unharmed. However, if in the same scenario the officer pulls a sidearm and shoots the subject, the results are much more catastrophic. In addition, the training director can minimize the effect of a less-lethal weapon, have the subject continue the attack, and force the student to deploy another weapon.
Two of the most interesting announcements at IACP came from 5.11 Tactical. The company, which was once part of Royal Robbins, has broken away to concentrate solely on law enforcement clothing and gear. Accordingly, 5.11 Tactical has launched a new line of Class A and Class B uniform shirts and pants. The pants are 65 percent polyester and 35 percent rayon, and both the Class A and Class B (with cargo pockets) versions are built to be tough and comfortable with diamond-gusseted crotches. Made of 64 percent polyester, 34 percent rayon, and 2 percent Lycra, the shirts feature hidden document pockets, and are available in long- and short-sleeved versions.
Streamlight showed a new flashlight that combines the best features of LED and incandescent lights. The Streamlight SL-20XP/LED and 3C-XP/LED flashlights are full-size, polymer construction, rechargeable police flashlights that combine the brightness and energy savings of LEDs with the penetration of an incandescent bulb. Officers can run both at once, or switch the light between LED mode and incandescent mode as needed. This feature makes the XP/LED flashlights actually two lights in one. When the incandescent bulb dims due to low battery strength, an officer can use his or her XP/LED flashlight in LED mode for another hour before recharging.
In the Crosshairs
Leupold announced that as of Jan. 1 all of the scopes in its tactical optics line, including its spotting scopes, are being upgraded to Mark 4 quality. Mark 4 is the company's designation for its highest level of optical precision and product features. Leupold also showed a new line of mid-range tactical scopes for law enforcement and military applications. The compact mid-range tactical (MR/T) scopes come in a variety of models, some with illuminated reticles, and are designed to be used with AR15-type rifles.
Motorola has joined the ranks of vendors of ruggedized Intel Centrino laptop computers with the release of the Motorola ML 850, an upgrade of the company's ML 840. Centrino technology gives the ML 850 built-in wireless modem capabilities, and it's no slouch as a standalone computing system. Ruggedized to MIL-STD-810F, the ML 850 is powered by a 1.1GHz Centrino, boasts 256MB of RAM and 64MB of video RAM, and comes standard with a 40GB hard drive.
Software on Patrol
Aether has upgraded its industry leading PacketCluster Patrol software. PacketCluster Patrol 4.5 includes a lot of little improvements requested by users, including a dual-pane query response window to aid review of NCIC, NLETS, and DMV data, support for 3G networks, and system administrator controlled toolbar access to intranet and Internet information. The PacketCluster Patrol 4.5 software is fully compatible with Aether's PacketWriter for field reporting and Aether's PocketBlue handheld computer solution.
One of the most interesting SWAT tools to debut at IACP was a ballistic shield that looks for all the world like a prop from the campy 1960's "Batman" TV show. The Baker Batshield is a bat-shaped piece of NIJ Level IIIA ballistic armor that can be tethered to a tactical officer, allowing him or her as much protection as a conventional ballistic shield and two free hands to aim and fire weapons. When not in use the Batshield can be slung over the operator's shoulder for easy transport. Created by retired tactical officer Al Baker, the Baker Batshield weighs approximately half as much as conventional SWAT bunker shields.
Thermal imaging systems are becoming more and more common in the equipment rooms of law enforcement agencies. But not every agency can afford this high-tech surveillance gear, and there are situations where even cops working for well-heeled agencies may need thermal imaging but find the equipment too bulky to carry into the field. Raytheon showed a new tool at IACP that may go a long way toward solving both problems. The Raytheon X100xp is a portable infrared camera that's about the size of a small set of binoculars and sells for thousands of dollars less than Raytheon's larger, more powerful infrared systems. Designed for tactical operations and serving with the U.S. military in Iraq, the X100xp weighs only 13 ounces, operates on AA batteries, and has an effective range of 1,000 feet.
If you're a bad guy and the cops hit you with a less-lethal 12-gauge round, you're having a bad day. But if you get hit with PepperBall's new ImpactPlus less-lethal 12-gauge round, then you're having a really bad day. ImpactPlus is a frangible 12-gauge round that releases PAVA (capsaicin II) pepper irritant on impact. The rounds fire from standard Remington 870 shotguns, and strike the target with 14 to 21 foot-pounds of kinetic force. Inert training rounds are also available.
Post-9/11 and even before one of the greatest concerns in U.S. public safety was the fear of bad guys getting badges and uniforms and posing as cops. In an effort to provide law enforcement officers with more secure badges, Collinson Enterprises has developed Safeshield, a holographic technique that imprints photos or other secure information on the face of the company's custom-designed badges. Collinson says the holographic badges cannot be counterfeited and any attempt to tamper with the image destroys it, rendering the badge useless.