On the patio outside the Long Beach Convention Center there was a clear reminder of what the conference/trade show inside was all about. There, the Long Beach Police Department parked three tactical vehicles, and officers attending the recent Tactical Response Expo (TREXPO) West show had to pass by each to get into the doors.

Out on that patio, the three tactical vehicles were just static displays. But anywhere else in the city these three vehicles together would probably mean big trouble. And they look appropriately ominous.

This is especially true of the Long Beach PD's new Lenco Bear armored SWAT vehicle. Painted tactical black, this armored car can hold enough officers to respond to big trouble. It also has WMD capabilities.

That's no surprise. After all the Long Beach PD probably paid for this vehicle at least partially with a Homeland Security grant. And, yes, that armored car can be used for anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism operations. But now nearly four years after 9/11, the watchword in SWAT operations is "multi-purpose," and Long Beach PD's Bear and much of the gear on display at this year's TREXPO West fit that description.

Yes, tactical officers remain concerned about terrorism. But there are other threats to public safety-gangs, active shooters, drug violence, just to name a few that warrant just as much, if not more, attention. This year's TREXPO West was about all of these concerns, as you will easily realize after a quick review of these highlights from the exhibition.

Pellet Sprayer

One of the most unusual devices on display at this year's TREXPO West was a less-lethal weapon from Pursuits Automatic Weapons. The Snake line of 6mm pellet launchers is essentially a CO2-powered machine gun that shoots plastic Airsoft pellets. Actually, it doesn't shoot them as much as it hoses them out. The rate of fire on this thing is 150 rounds per second. Company representatives say the muzzle velocity can reach 550 feet per second. They see the weapon as a crowd control tool. In fact, one of the reps who's been sprayed with it says the experience is very painful, and it would likely disperse all but the most determined rioters.

Stabilized Bean Bag

Not a lot has changed in the past few years in police bean bag operations, but MK Ballistic Systems has developed a new drag-stabilized system that may shake up long-range less-lethal applications. MK's patent-pending QT-4 Aero-Sock is a 12-gauge sock-style beanbag with six stabilizers arranged in a daisy pattern. The company says the new design offers a radical improvement in accuracy, and it also expands the bag's impact area significantly reducing the chance of injury to the subject.

The Bodyguard

Smith & Wesson is one of the most prominent names in law enforcement. The company makes police bicycles, handcuffs, and...oh, yes, handguns. Now, S&W is moving into the police body armor market with its Bodyguard line of ballistic vests. At TREXPO West, S&W showed four body armor prototypes: 44 Magnum, 44 Magnum Plus, UMAV-S, and UMAV-F. Both of the 44 Magnum models are concealable vests designed for patrol operations. The 44 Magnum is an NIJ Level IIIA vest that incorporates three ballistic materials: Kevlar, Gold Flex, and Spectra Flex Plus. The 44 Magnum Plus incorporates Twaron, Goldflex, and Dyneema laminated fabrics to produce an NIJ Level IIIA vest that is less than one-quarter-inch thick. On the tactical side, the Bodyguard line offers the Ultimate Modular Assault vest (UMAV). UMAV is available in a side-opening model and a front-opening model. Both models are available in NIJ Level II and Level IIIA versions, and they can support optional hard plates. Other options include Nomex carriers, groin protectors, upper arm protectors, and neck protectors.

Stow and Go

Tactical Storage Systems showed its new line of aluminum storage boxes for emergency vehicles. The storage systems can be remotely locked and unlocked and feature heavy-duty rollers, spring-loaded handles, a black hard rubber mat for easy top loading, and a powder coat finish. All are backed by a lifetime warranty.

Illuminated Watch

Watches are not generally thought of as mission-critical tactical gear. But maybe they should be. At least that's the argument of American Watch Company, which showed its Special Ops line of watches at TREXPO West. The Special Ops watches include what the company calls the world's first rechargeable watch with LED illumination. The LEDs are so bright that they can be seen for one mile in the dark and are perfect for map reading and other quick tasks. Each of the Special Ops watches is water resistant to 100 meters.

Heat Signature

L3 Communications showed its Thermal-Eye 4000B infrared camera, using a mock-up of a police car to demonstrate the utility of the system. The ThermalEye 4000B infrared surveillance system is designed for mounting on a patrol car or other vehicle. It offers the user a 360-degree view and can pinpoint people, cars, boats, and other objects at up to 1,500 feet. The user controls the camera with a joystick and views the images on a display inside the vehicle.