"It's so big!" "I can't believe it!" "This is so amazing!"
It was also likely to be hugely lucrative. Many of the nearly 700 vendors exhibiting their wares at the International Association of Chiefs of Police's 104th Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, this past October, anticipated a profitable outcome as a result of the "Chief's Show."
"The exposure is invaluable. Nothing can quite compare with seeing customers face to face and having them handle the equipment," said Joe Troiani, director of media relations for Glock, Inc., which introduced three new .375 auto pistols at the show. Troiani explained that while a sudden spike in sales isn't anticipated, due to the process by which most law enforcement agencies purchase equipment, sales are expected to increase throughout the year. "A show like this definitely deeps the line on the bar chart perpetually heading upward," he said.
While information was unavailable on what is expected in exact dollar amounts, many other sales representatives echoed Troiani's assertion that sales would tend to increase gradually, during the course of the year, due to the exposure received from the show.
"For us it's been outstanding. We introduced two new products and we've just been swamped," said Chuck Buis, a representative from Michael's of Oregon, which specializes in holsters and accessories. When asked if the company's sales will go up due to the show, Buis replied without hesitation, "Oh, yeah!"
Bob Weber of Safariland, a supplier of bulletproof vests and other products, saw a number of familiar faces at the show. "A lot of my customers came by the booth- our dealers, distributors, officers, chiefs. The show's been excellent."
Jim Cavanaugh, director of marketing of Armor Holdings, Inc., agreed. "The conference has been extraordinarily beneficial to us. We were able to display a multitude of new products to chiefs from all around the world," he said.
Said Ford Motor Corporation's State and Local Government Sales Manager Pat Howe, "We were very happy with the show, the attendance, comments from the crowd. It's the most important show for us. It's very professional and we always get intelligent feedback from decision makers." He added, "Our aftershow orders are right on schedule, if not ahead."
Other vendors, such as ITT Night Vision's Allen Thorton; Eric D. Crawford of Mace Security International; and Brain Felter of Beretta USA Corporation, all looked for future sales to rise because of their presence at the show.
Besides the obvious benefits of increased sales, many exhibitors claimed additional reasons for being at the show.
"We have a high concern for law enforcement in this company. We want to help them as much as we possibly can," said David W. Pisenti of Point Black Body Armor.
For Brain Felter, the representative from Beretta, "The main focus of our show is to define and expose new products on our market where they can see and touch them and become familiar with them. It's educational. And an educated consumer can make a good choice."
Sales Reps With a Past
It may not be generally known that representatives for several companies are former law enforcement professionals themselves. They can 'talk the talk' because at one time they also 'walked the walk' as officers. ITT Night Vision's Thorton, an example, is a former narcotics officer.
"Actually, a greater percentage of our personnel are former law enforcement," said Mike Hooper, director of marketing for Safariland. "Some have retired or have left the force for other reasons and have come to work for us. They understand the needs of the agencies. Some of our people were training officers, and training officers often make recommendations to the chief on products because they're in the field and know what's going on. They know what's needed and can talk one-on-one with customers."
Bob Weber is one of those people referred to by Hooper. In fact, he and many of his fellow representatives at the Safariland booth are retired LAPD officers.
Cavanaugh, of Armor Holdings, Inc. and Troiani, of Glock, revealed similar circumstances at their companies.
"Oh yes! A great many of our sales reps, and those in other positions in the company, have law enforcement backgrounds. It would be very difficult to operate without having the same kind of knowledge our customers have," said Troiani.
Be The First On Your Block To See It
The exhibit hall is an integral part of the conference each year. It provides an opportunity or law enforcement personnel, from all levels, to preview the latest clothing, equipment, and services that pertain to their profession.
This year, the hall took up a large part of the Orange County Convention Center, which stretches nearly a mile in length. A cacophony of sounds and a barrage of colorful booths competed for visitors' attention from every direction.
There were so many vendors, it's not possible to mention every one, in fact it was hard to resist breaking into a run to get to each booth. A brief sampling affords some idea of the magnitude of this three-day event within the framework of the conference.
There were bicycles, clothing, guns and ammo, holsters, bullet-proof vests, computers, not to mention numerous associations present- all geared toward law enforcement.
Companies often debut new products at this show, including Safariland (five new tactical vests); Allied Signal(Spectra Shield Plus); U.S. Armor(Enforcer vest); while Point Blank Body Armor showcased its technological advances in concealable protection.
Armor Holdings, Inc. attracted attention with its American Body Armor and related equipment; Protective Products International featured its concealable and tactical body armor ballistic shields; and Second Chance Body Armor displayed its soft body armor.
Among the booths featuring clothing and the fabric that makes up most law enforcement uniforms were Fechheimer; Blauer; Spiewak; Rocky Booths; Weinbrenner Shoe; Dakota; Gerber; Pro- Tuff; Helmet House; and W.L. Gore and Associates.
Holsters and belts were well represented by such companies as Michael's of Oregon, with new Basketweave Nylon Duty Gear. Bianchi featured leather and AccuMold nylon holsters, belts and accessories. Strong Holster Company displayed its line of holsters, belts, badge cases, wallets and belt accessories which are made of leather and strongcore ballistic materials. Mixon Corporation was there with leather and ballistic nylon products.
Firepower- oriented booths were always crowded as representatives from companies, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta and Glock, displayed the latest in weaponry.
Zap Electric Bikes, Trek Bicycle Corporation, and Smith & Wesson Mountain Bikes, were in attendance, complete with a multitude of accessories for policing on bikes.
On the higher end of the price scale, automobiles that cater to law enforcement grabbed center stage. These vendors included Ford, Chevrolet and Subaru.
The haute couture of technology exacted a telling presence. With various hardware and software companies working together, interconnectedness appears to be the wave of the future. Representatives became patient instructors for the technically challenged (such as myself) as they demonstrated products, many of which are becoming increasingly user- friendly.
Laerdal medical Corp. out of New York, Survivalink Corp. of Minneapolis, and Physio- Control and Heartstream, both of Washington State, displayed defibrillators, designed for easy use by first responders, which police officers often are.
Kodak representatives demonstrated their digital Science DC 120 Zoom Digital Camera which can be used to quickly and easily document crime scenes or evidence, then can be download onto a computer and printed to photo quality.
ITT Night Vision introduced its mobile, high resolution Night cam 380ip Surveillance kit for law enforcement to use in low- light situations.
TRW previewed its latest developments in 911 dispatch, which links up with transportation management systems for efficient response to traffic- related incidents.
The harlequin Group representatives explained their PowerCase program, a case and information management system which can be used in conjunction with Watson, a mapping system, that can help in the spatial analysis of an investigation.
A fascinating array of fingerprinting systems was presented by companies including, TRW; Printrak International, Inc,; Indentix; and NEC Technologies.
Wireless technology was offered by vendors such as AT&T and GTE, while mobile computer products were displayed at the booths of vendors like Vision Tek; and Symi Solutions, Inc.
Training and Associations
Other vendors included those specialized in training, such as Mace Security International, which, in addition to the famous pepper spray, now offers five new training videos corresponding to the classes they offer, taught by law enforcement professionals. Calibre Press, Inc. also presented their training programs, books and products. FATS, Inc. was visibly (and audibly) present with its firearms training simulators. LETN (Law Enforcement TV Network), which provides education and training, actually had their cameras rolling throughout the event.
Besides the denizens of product- oriented booths, there were also a number of police- oriented associations and programs in attendance. Included were the American jail Association; American Society for Industrial Security; D.A.R.E. America; National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund; Police Executive Research Forum; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms/GREAT Program. The Department of Justice was also there representing several of their programs, as were other federal agencies.
Certainly for attendees, there was a lot to absorb. Many saw a trip to the exhibit hall as being one of the highlights of the conference.
Allison Parker, a police constable, from Lancashire Constabulary in England, was serving as a representative for Identix. When POLICE asked her opinion about the show, she replied, "The best think is the diversity of police equipment. It really shows us the wave of the future."
Police Sgt. Jack Baxter, from the same agency as Parker, agreed and added, "It's great seeing all the products not available to us in England."
While no selling was allowed in the hall, members of the law enforcement community got a chance to see innovations in countless products designed to make their jobs a little easier and safer. And the technology seems to change by the minute. Many of these products are so new and so cutting edge, they are not even on the market yet. But give them time. The products exhibited at the chief's show provided potential users not only a look at the here and now, but also a glimpse into the not- so- distant future.
Rebecca Stone is assistant editor of POLICE.