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.[PAGEBREAK]
A couple of other notable high-tech products at TREXPO West included Card Integrators' Easy Badge, a photo security system suited to the security needs of police agencies, and the P3 from Millennium Sensor. The P3 is a wireless microwave sensor system with a range of up to 60 feet. SWAT officers can use the sensor system to track the movement of the bad guys in a building, effect perimeter security, and alert them to flanking maneuvers.
Because of the presence of Tactical Watreborne Operations for a pre-TREXPO training session and demonstrations at the TREXPO show, there were several exhibitors at TREXPO West who specialized in equipment for am-phibious and underwater operations. Aqua Lung/U.S. Divers show-ed its line of Oxy-Lung underwater breathing apparatuses used for stealthy appro-aches by military and law enforcement divers. The closed-circuit units prevent the tell-tale release of bubbles that is inherent with scuba regulators.
Besides ste-althy approach, another concern with the use of underwater tactical units is communication. At TREXPO West, Divelink International Technologies demoed its Divelink ultrasonic wireless co-m-m-un--ication system. The voice-activated technology allows divers to talk to each other and to colleagues on the surface while submerged.
SWAT assault vehicles were another big draw at the show. Two of the most visible were the GM Defense/Patriot 3 and the SWATEC trucks. Both feature telescoping metal ramps that can be used to rescue victims, insert forces, and provide shooting stands for police snipers. The SWATEC Height Adjustable Rescue Assault System (HARAS) lets users gain access to buildings and aircraft up to three stories high. The Mobile Adjustable Ramp System (MARS) from Patriot 3 can be mounted on heavy armored vehicles from GM Defense and features a sniper position.
A Place for Your Stuff
Vehicle storage that allows tactical teams to organize their gear was also popular with the TREXPO West attendees. Odyssey Automotive Specialties exhibited its new cabinet system that features a weapons locker with snug foam compartments for a variety of police tools, including MP5 subguns, AR-15s, shotguns, rifles, ammunition, and less lethal munitions.
I See You
Perhaps no other category of products was more active at TREXPO West than tactical video. Instrument Technology Inc. (ITI), Photech, Sciax Defence Systems, Search Systems Inc., and Tactronix were all on hand, showing their latest hardware.
ITI showed an expansive product line of surveillance vid-eo tools, inclu-ding under-door scopes, low-light infrared systems, 15-foot telescoping pole systems, fiber video lenses, and peephole systems. In addition, ITI makes Contraband Search Scopes that can be used to inspect the insides of vehicle gas tanks and other enclosed areas.
Sciax's SeCam Tactical Video System is a 17-foot telescoping pole system with a couple of neat wrinkles. The SeCam's camera head is only 1.25 inches in diameter, so it fits in a lot of confined areas; it rotates 270 degrees on its own axis, and it is submersible to 165 feet. Also the SeCam's 6.5-inch LCD monitor comes with a removable hood to aid daylight viewing.
TREXPO is a good place to see the latest police surveillance optics and precision weapon sights. Two examples of innovative high-tech gun sights were on display: the EOTech Holographic Diffraction Sight (HDS) and the SpecterIR from Elcan Optical Technologies.
The EOTech system has won praise from both police and military users in field operations. At TREXPO, EOTech showed its second-generation Series 500 HDS, which is lighter and smaller than the previous models, is compatible with Generation 1 through Generation 3-plus night vision intensifier tubes, and can be operated with everyday AA batteries.
Slightly more exotic is Elcan's soon-to-be-released SpecterIR. The SpecterIR thermal weapons sight is ideal for night surveillance in fog, rain, snow, and even smoke. Another projected use for the thermal infrared system is search-and-rescue operations.