Technology is a funny thing. Just when you think you've got a handle on it, someone comes up with a new idea, or an interesting twist on an old one, and you think to yourself, "Now, why didn't I think of that?"
As you might expect, I get the chance to look over a lot of new gear in my role as a "technology writer." Some of it is very cool, and I can immediately see a need for it, and wish that it was around when I really needed it. Some of it is clearly a solution in search of a problem. By that, I mean that someone had the inkling of an idea about a problem, or perceived problem, and a great (to them) idea for a new product. They developed the product, and then made it fit the problem they thought they had identified. Then the sales and marketing kicked into high gear.
Law enforcement has seen this particular phenomenon before, and pretty frequently. For example, back in the 1980s it was clear that officers needed more non-lethal options when dealing with resistant subjects. A CN based spray, often referred to as "mace" had been around for awhile, but had proven relatively ineffective for use during arrest scenarios. The development of oleoresin capsicum (OC) based products--pepper spray--was a great idea, and fulfilled a need that was clear.
However, then the onslaught began. Soon there were dozens of companies marketing a wide variety of spray weapons. Some products varied in the percentage of active ingredients (1%, 1.5%, 3%, 5%, 5.5%, 6%, and 10%), while others began mixing different active ingredients (CS/OC, CN/OC), and still others combined the two concepts into "blend" products with varying degrees of active ingredients. And we won't even get into that whole business about the SHU (Scoville Heat Units, or "hotness") ratings of the different products.
Almost overnight, it seemed, law enforcement was inundated with such a wide selection of products, "backed up" by such a variety of claims as to effectiveness, it became almost impossible to make an informed decision as to which product to buy. Clearly, the market had responded to the marketplace, but in doing so, the manufacturers, distributors and vendors had created a situation that had a serious potential to confuse and misinform.
The intervening years have seen law enforcement grow and mature as a marketplace, refining our understanding of our needs, and developing a much more highly tuned--for want of a better phrase--"BS Detector." In short, we have become much more sophisticated regarding our needs, and our selection of solutions.
This is not to suggest that competition is a bad thing. On the contrary, competition is what drives us forward--what makes us better. The best product in the world can always be improved, but without a competitor pushing, why would it be? We've all had the experience of picking up a thing, and saying to ourselves, "...wow, that's great. If only it also had [this], or [that], it would be perfect!" Then, once enough people have said that, a competitor comes along and improves the thing by adding [this], or [that], and the cycle begins anew. As long as the improvements are driven by what officers really need and want, it's a good thing.
The reason I'm being so philosophical here is that I recently had the pleasure of attending the IACP conference and vendor show, in Boston. While looking around the thousands of booths in the exhibition area, I was struck by how significant the law enforcement market had become, and by how the marketers had responded. I saw many examples of the aforementioned excess, and I saw many newly developed and refined products that officers can really use to keep themselves and the citizens they serve safer. Here are two examples.
Good Idea Number One
LaserMax® has produced firearms laser sighting systems for years, and many officers like their products because they are inserted into a handgun as a replacement for the recoil spring guide, thereby negating the need for a new holster design. However, LaserMax's type of laser sighting device has been limited to pistols for one very simple reason: Revolvers don't have recoil spring guides.