04/02/2008

ThorShield: Taking some of the sting out of police work

By Marin Perez,
PoliceOne editor


Electroshock devices like Tasers have, in situations conducive to their use, saved officer and suspect lives by successfully incapacitating dangerous people in a fashion that helps avoid the need for deadly force. These less-lethal tools are quickly becoming "go-to" devices in use-of-force situations.

But like any weapon, there is a danger of combative suspects disarming an officer and using it against him.

Anyone who has "gone for a ride" can tell you the debilitating effect these stun guns can have. To help combat this critical officer-safety issue, Point Blank Solutions and G2 Consulting have introduced the ThorShield body armor liner--available only to law enforcement and military.

"ThorShield is a lightweight, comfotable body armor liner that will absolutely stop electroshock weapons like stun guns and Tasers," said Dale Taylor, Vice President of Research and Development for Point Blank Solutions. "The FBI's Uniform Crime Report showed that about 20 percent of officers who were feloniously slain were slain by their own weapons." With that, Taylor expressed concern that officers can also be disarmed of their electroshock device and have it used against them, seriously compromising their safety.

The companies' patented fabric is sewn into the outer shell of a ballistic vest and stops electroshock weapons by being more conductive than the human body. The electricity is dispersed in the fabric, and the user feels no effects if both probes hit the vest. Even if one probe hits the vest and one hits skin, Taylor said the ThorShield in the vest will reduce the impulse to some degree and may help to prevent the officer from being incapacitated.

ThorShield comes out as more cases of officers getting their Taser stolen or having electroshock weapons being used against them surface.

The increased adoption of civilian stun guns is also a growing potential danger to officers, said Taylor. It is important to note, ThorShield vests and technology will only be sold to police or military personnel.

"We didn't look at any specific officer-safety incident in developing this, we just realized that the opportunity to incapacitate an officer was growing and we are trying to be more proactive in having officers be protected against these kinds of attacks," said Michael Foreman, Senior Vice President of Domestic and International Sales at Point Blank Solutions.

Foreman, a retired Orange County (Fla) Sheriff's Office Chief, said regular body armor may not protect from weapons like Tasers.

"The probes of a Taser can penetrate a Level IIIA ballistic vest and a Spike Level 3 corrections vest," he said. "And if you're hit by one of these stun guns, you won't be able to defend yourself or others."

Although he has not tested ThorShield, Dave Smith, senior instructor of the Street Survival Seminars, says body armor that can stop electroshock weapons is an important idea because these weapons can pose a significant officer-safety threat.


Watch a news report on ThorShield

"Officers can't afford to be disabled; we have to protect our weapons systems," said Smith. "I've seen hundreds of videos and have been involved in tons of demonstrations and I have yet to see one person fight through the Taser — it actively disables you."

Smith had concerns that adding more layers to the vest could potentially be detrimental to officer safety.

"For day-to-day patrol officers, their vests have to provide protection while not hindering maneuverability, agility, or body temperature," said Smith. "It's always a delicate process trying to balance between comfort, usability and protection."

The makers of ThorShield said they were aware of this balancing act during research and development. Taylor said the first generation was a bit inflexible and thick, so they worked hard to slim the material down without hindering an officer's movement.

"It is very important to us that added protection would be nearly invisible to the officer," Taylor said.

The fabric is machine washable, flexible and has been independently tested to stop current electroshock weapons. The fabric is light enough that there will be a ThorShield line of tactical and patrol gloves later this year.

"It's a very exciting technology," said Foreman. "We've received nothing but positive feedback after our demonstrations because this is an issue that's not going away any time soon."

Point Blank and PACA Body Armor will be the exclusive distributor of ThorShield armor liner. It will come standard in Point Blank Armor's VisionTM line of body armor, and it's also available as an optional upgrade in the Hi-LiteTM and C-SeriesTM lines. The upgrade will cost about $60 dollars

"We recognize that it's an officer-safety issue, so we wanted to make it affordable." Foreman said. "It's more important to see more officers wearing vests than just maximizing profits on a new technology."

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