I like sausage, but that doesn't necessarily mean I like the thought of watching it prepared. Nor am I particularly interested in an objective detailing of the processes involved. Neither prospect speaks to either my interest or aptitude.
This posture is analogous to the feeling I have for covering things normally quite off my radar. Which brings me to the vagaries of this year’s COPS West expo and trade show, held last week in Ontario, Calif.
Nowhere is this meant to diminish the event's import, for such venues serve invaluable purposes for those whose inclinations are to exploit the wares on display. For those of us less enamored of such realities who nonetheless find ourselves saddled with having to report on things we are commuter-friendly to, we are but the blind men encircling the elephant. All we can do is tender our admittedly limited perceptions of things, and rely upon the appraisals of others in attendance.
That having been said, the expo can be a bit of an adventure. And herein I will share some of my thoughts on this year's edition.
First, if you plan to attend next year's event, I would readily recommend that you show up before the 10 a.m. starting time, particularly if you harbor any illusions of getting free street parking. If, like me, you end up parking at the Ontario Convention Center, plan on spending $8 for what is arguably not on-site parking. The hike from my parking spot to the center's entrance would take Carl Lewis some time to cover.
Also, if you know well ahead of time that you are going to attend, then preregister. Believe me, you DO NOT want to wait in the onsite registration line unless your aim is to determine the half-life of your neighbor's deodorant. About 10 minutes into my protracted registration and without any editorial comment on my part on her ineptitude, the flustered register made the surly observation that I'd failed to check off a couple of registration boxes that were not applicable to my attendance. As she fudged the datasheet to bring it into martinet compliance, I told the young guy behind me in line that I was retired, and by the time he'd get registered, he'd probably be retired, too.
Thankfully, such aggravations were the exceptions (as well they should be—I doubt the event would have lasted this long otherwise). Still, they are worthy of note as they should be attended to in future incarnations (C'mon, this was the show's 10th anniversary edition.). Otherwise, what I saw of the expo was pretty damn impressive.
Stop Rubbernecking. While they are increasingly common now, we didn't have much in the way of protective crime and accident scene barriers when I worked patrol. An ancillary benefit of Stop Rubbernecking's product is embedded in its name: It inhibits the temptation for passersby to slow and gawk and rear-end those ahead of them. With a set-up facilitated via a series of ties and bolstering magnets, it is capable of being easily erected by a single officer in less than five minutes. Sturdy enough to prevent debris from contaminating your evidence, its usage also lessens the prospect of some other cop coming by and taking a drive-by picture guaranteed to get Gloria Allred salivating the moment its gory visuals are posted to the Internet.
Bait Bike. This is not the first time, I have tried to do a story about this product. My maiden effort was thwarted—that's comic book lingo for "seriously undermined”—when one part of the partnership was denied the opportunity to speak about the product by his police chief. Thankfully, my serendipitous appearance at Cops West allowed me to make the acquaintance of his partner, who is not constrained by anal-retentive prohibitions. They've accomplished some great investigative work along beachfront communities and elsewhere, and recovered stolen property. Their tracking technology is pretty impressive, and I hope that other law enforcement agencies will consider putting such products to work.
Patrol PC. Tablet Computers. Never had one. And that deprivation alone is ample enough reason for some retroactive resentment. Never mind that they now have durable numbers such as Patrol PC's RT-12i ultra-rugged tablet. Capable of being insinuated into your patrol ride through a variety of means, it comes installed with the buyer’s choice of an Intel 2nd generation Core i3, i5, or i7 processor and Microsoft Windows 7. With fixed mount and portable configurations, the tablets are ergonomic friendly and ultra compact. Backed with a seven-year warranty, these tablets are housed in a milled aluminum semi-indestructible frame. But the security feature I find most appealing is the built-in fingerprint authentication system, which meets CJIS requirements for limiting access to FBI databases. The unexpected cool feature would have to be the built-in eCitation license scanner.
Kussmaul Electronics. What with all the electronics occupying the passenger compartment areas of our patrol cars, it makes sense to have an adequate means of powering them. Kussmaul Electronics PDS-100 avails fleet management just that, providing six dedicated fused circuits configured in three load groups to power radios, emergency lights, siren, video, MDT, radar, and more. Featuring powered only with ignition and timed disconnect options, its LED indicator allows for quick trouble-shooting, readily identifying the exact position of blown fuses.
Federal Signal. Between dealing with the resulting gran mal seizures brought on by all the flashing lights on the Cops West show floor, I spoke with a former L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Industry Station co-worker, Sean Heick, now with Federal Signal. Sean told me about some of the features of the company’s latest light bar, including how its V-shaped design enhances officer safety, giving intersection approaching citizens better lead time to detect officers rolling code 3. Its tri-light LED set-up allows for a blindingly solid white to the front (felony takedown mode), conventional blue/yellow streams, and mix-and-match configurations depending upon an officers situational needs.
Tactical Impulse. The sight of a flashlight in the on-position at the bottom of an aquarium is bound to get my attention, and when the people responsible for this seemingly irresponsible act do an admirable job of describing their product's advantages they come perilously close to getting my vote, too. Such was the case with Tactical Impulse's line of patrol flashlights. Designed so as to accommodate an attachable traffic baton, the LE-1 is capable of being submerged in water (I would think this would have appeal in certain watery regions of our country). With a battery life of two straight hours at high power, its LED beam is pretty damn impressive—I was able to clearly discern its point of impact against the convention center's ceiling despite the amplitude of existing illumination. At $129, its comparable to other patrol flashlights in the marketplace but with its own unique appeal. Also, there are a variety of battery chargers available as well as a duty-belt-friendly holster.
Action Target. With more than 4,000 products and 40 patent designs, Action Target avails itself to all manner of commentary. But the main reason that I want to mention Action Target is that the company was conscientious about including information on its range ventilation system. Having known a few rangemasters who have suffered longterm health complications whose origins lay in their work environment, anything that enhances officer safety in both the long and short-run by removing airborne contaminants from the respiratory zone of range participants gets a deserving thumb's up from me.
Volt Bicycles. Might Volt Bicycles electric patrol bicycles mitigate the fatigue experienced by bike officers in dealing with a suspect at the end of a pursuit? I dunno. But maybe. Definitely something to consider.
Spike strips. Yeah, they were on display, too. But with another officer killed deploying one in the past month I still don't like them. Ergo, no plug from me.
Presentations. There were a number of presentations that looked pretty interesting that I might have attended had my visit been anything but a last minute commitment. If the speakers were all on par with the scheduled Sid Heal—one of the sharpest men I have ever met in law enforcement—then I don't doubt that they were as entertaining as they were educational. Perhaps next year.
Food. They had an eating area set up outside the Center where for 10 bucks you could load up your paper plate with delicious entrees prepared by a variety of LEO-related organizations (I'm not one to take pictures of my meals and post them on Facebook, but I damn near considered it). I opted for the line that included the Montclair Police Officers Association as they were the nearest PD to me. I was glad I did. The food alone was enough to justify my patronage and the best surprise of the event (hey, my blog, my priorities). Damn good barbeque chicken and tri-tip. The pasta wasn't bad, either. And if they were stingy in what they might put on your plate on your first visit in line, I noticed that they didn't begrudge your coming back for more. (This was vicariously experienced. I was full with my first plate.)
A couple more addled thoughts...
For those who bring their products to such events. I didn't throw a sales pitch to anyone. I really don't want to know who advertises with POLICE or not, that way I can speak candidly on my narrow-minded take on things and not jeopardize my credibility. But a couple of vendors causally mentioned that they never advertise in any publication. I think they're missing the boat. In my many years of being associated with POLICE, I have never tried to drum up business or made a sales pitch for advertising. But I will now. It seems to me that such mindsets are gambling on reaching those with purchasing power at these expos. But while there are definitely such men and women in attendance, they do not constitute the majority of attendees, many that are regionally based. This means that you are effectively missing out on huge segments of your prospective market. Advertising in a nationally based publication—particularly one such as POLICE magazine, a Best Public Safety trade publication—avails you the opportunity to reach thousands of customers throughout the country. Don't limit yourself.
Regarding those who were selling on the floor, many I spoke with were decidedly of non-LEO origins, particularly those whose strongsuits were of a technical nature. But many others had been or are active cops. To a man and woman, they didn't press any hard sell and were more than willing to speak about their products even if you made it clear that you had no interest as a prospective buyer. Generally gregarious, they were unfailing professional and I don't recall hearing a single expletive. I suspect that these silver tongued devils had a good way of verbal judo-ing it in the field and that those skillsets helped them segue into another career. Just something to think about.
Finally, the expo needs to get people who know what the hell they're doing when registering people, or who will at least refrain from making defensive statements once their ineptitude has become manifest. Or redesign your registration form so as to allow for non-law enforcement types. I'm retired, so your visitor profile matrix doesn’t apply to people such as myself. And don't protest that "Well, it's a show designed for active cops." If that's the sole demographic you're dealing with, you wouldn't have had that embarrassingly skeletal media kit package available for handout at the event.
Such changes will minimize the likelihood of confusion on the part of those registering those covering your event, or of snarkiness on the part of those doing the covering. It sure as hell will in my case.