On Sunday evening, November 9th at the On Broadway Event Center in San Diego, California, the Cygnus Law Enforcement Group presented 15 awards for innovation to the manufacturing companies of a variety of products. The Innovation Awards are in their third year and have been delivered in conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference each year. While it is easy to report on who the finalists and winners of the Innovation Awards were, it's a different challenge to deliver a story that describes the true "flavor" of the evening.
Most of those attending the Innovation Awards ceremony had come either directly from the exhibit floor of IACP or they had stopped at their hotels just long enough to "freshen up" before coming in. At the door each was given a name tag and invited to enjoy the open bar and buffet food. The food was exceptional and included a salad, penne pasta dish, baked chicken dish, and a vegetarian dish. Appetizers included a variety of hors d’oeuvre’s as well as the more common fruits, cheeses and crackers.
What truly made the evening fun and enjoyable, though, was not the food or drink (although many folks became more fun after having some food and drink). What truly made the evening fun and enjoyable was the company. While everyone there is in the "industry" that evolves around law enforcement in some way - mostly with law enforcement agencies and officers being their primary customers - it was clear that the large majority of them are motivated by more than simple dollars. This is a huge statement when one considers the economic challenges our country has faced and the recent conclusion of a historic presidential election.
Virtually every winner of an innovation award produces a product that serves those who protect and serve. From uniforms with built in first-aid products to versatile and modular firearms to accessories for firearms that help the shooter be more efficient, the products that won the innovation awards clearly demonstrate that - even in today's environment - the "industry" is still more about taking care of those who risk their lives for our safety than it is about taking the dollars from those same people.
After everyone had enjoyed the food and drink - and with some still enjoying some deserts and desert beverages - Editorial Director Ronnie Garret took the state and opened the awards ceremony with a very short speech. In her remarks she shared a couple of stories that had been sent in by law enforcement professionals and those stories, although humorous, displayed some of the types of calls for service police officers have to deal with regularly. From the little old lady who couldn't go to her dentist appointment because of the aliens trying to get into her apartment to the officer who discovers a trail of frozen turkeys along a highway the night before Thanksgiving, Ronnie shared some stories that made us all chuckle and gave us a glimpse into the often twisted and challenging world our peace officers face each day.
The winners and finalists in each of the 15 categories have been posted in a different article (linked below) so I won't go through them all here, but as a retired police officer and still police trainer, I wanted to comment on a few of them.
First we need to recognize that while some of the products don't come across as "so cool" they are no less important or valuable in the work we do. Some of the products don't have the words "tactical", "magnum" or "SpecOps" in their names. Often they are dismissed because they aren't viewed as high-speed / low-drag. What a mistake we make when we dismiss them out of hand simply because of a name.
Second we need to understand that doing law enforcement work requires a variety of products that support everything we do from office products to weapon systems. What you may need the next agency over may not and vice versa. What you think is cool might be entirely different from what I think is cool. Reality for both of us should be that whatever solves our current problem is cool.
That all said, let's take a look at a couple of the winners. The winner for the Corrections & Security category was TruckVault represented by Pat Garrett, their IT and Special Projects Manager. After accepting the award one of Pat's comments was, "I guess we build a better box. Pretty simple actually." Simple can often be innovative. The bigger challenge comes in when someone tries to create a complex solution to a simple problem.
In the Hazmat category, Ahura Scientific won with Bill Murphy, their Senior Homeland Security Specialist, representing them. His words were quite poignant offered the day before the Marine Corps' 233rd birthday and just two days before Veterans' Day: "This is for all the great special ops people in Afghanistan and Iraq." That is the kind of sentiment that we at Officer.com appreciate hearing voiced. We may exist to serve the law enforcement profession but we support all those who serve.
When Phil Tanzini, President of Dummies Unlimited, Inc., stood to walk up and accept the award in the Training category, we met him beside the stage. It was our intention to keep him from trying to hobble up the stairs on his crutches. Why was he on crutches? Because sometimes when you're experimenting with your own preproduction items things don't go the right way. Heck, sometimes when everything is perfect accidents still happen. Actually, Phil was hurt during a recreational activity that had nothing to do with his work, but his thoughts on the purpose of his products said it all: "We have been making products for almost 50 years. We hope to make it safer for officers everywhere." The "it" he speaks of is training which results in safer work as the end result.
In the Uniform category the product that won didn't have any of those special cool words in its name, but it certainly serves a cool purpose. Terry Naughton, BLACKHAWK!'s Director of Licensed Products, accepted the award for the Integrated Tourniquet System. His words weren't surprising given that BLACKHAWK! was started by a veteran Navy Special Warfare operator and holds as its motto, "Honor as a way of life." Terry said, "If we could just bring one more guy home... It means a lot to us to have the guys and women in the U.S. Forces wearing this."
Obviously all of these manufacturers make products as a means of turning a profit for their companies, but to hear such thoughts and motivations voiced makes it very clear why the Cygnus Law Enforcement Group hosts these Innovation Awards each year: to recognize those who go above and beyond supporting those who go above and beyond.
I'd like to offer a huge thank you to all those who submitted a product in the various categories. To the winners I'd like to again say congratulations!