Police Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees
Rescue tubes, water bladder replacements, and bike toys
Four short product reviews for your consideration
Constantly on the prowl for new tech that I think might make cops’ lives easier or more fun, I sometimes run across gadgets that are really clever, but there’s not enough to say about them to fill a column. This edition discusses three such devices that are all innovative, but not especially complicated or even related to one another.
In my entire police career, only once was I assigned to a watercraft. I was a reserve tribal cop assisting a non-sworn marine patrol deputy on a lake patrol, trying to look intimidating while he drove the boat. I had no training in marine operations, and the only thing that kept going through my head was that, if I fell overboard with my vest and duty belt, I was going down like a stone. There are life vests designed especially for law enforcement, but they’re heavy, bulky, and expensive. The Restube may fill the gap for times you don’t have the full-on life vest.
The Restube is worn on a cloth belt and is about the size and shape of a can of shaving cream. If you fall in the water, pull a toggle and a compressed air cartridge inflates the Restube into a long, floatable pillow. You have to hang on to it, as there aren’t any arm straps, but the belt does keep it tethered to you so it won’t float away. It can be deflated and re-used with a new inflation cartridge. It’s presently available in Europe, and sells for about US$135.
Jetflow Hydration Systems
Backpack-style water bladders beat the problem of having no place on a duty belt to carry a canteen, and not tying up your hands to get a drink. Even so, keeping the bladders clean between uses is difficult. Being moist, dark and almost airless, they’re ideal breeding grounds for mold. Your choices are not cleaning it out properly and have your water taste moldy, or cleaning it out too well and drinking Eau de Clorox all day. The Jetflow hydration system mates a standard reusable water bottle or commercial disposable (Aquafina, Gatorade. etc.) bottle with a special jet valve and bite valve that works as well as your water pack.
It comes with three different adapters for different water bottle types, which are carried upside down to facilitate water flow. The water bottles are much easier to clean than a water bladder, and you always have the option of using a bottle you bought at the 7-11. You’ll sacrifice some capacity, as few water bottles have the volume of a big water bladder, but you can carry multiple bottles and you’ll know your system is always ready to go, and not in need of cleaning and disinfecting when you need it at the last minute.
Bike Lights and Computers
Whether you’re on bike patrol or just ride one for transportation and exercise, maintaining a headlight is kind of a pain in the butt because you have to watch the charge on your batteries. Dynamo-powered headlights are available, but rely on a wheel that rubs against one tire for power. This gets out of alignment and drags on the wheel.
A Kickstarter project called Magnic Light uses eddy currents created by the wheel rim rotating past a magnet to generate power for two LED headlights. There is no physical contact with the rotating wheel, and rims made of almost any metallic material will work with the device.
Kickstarter is a kind of crowdsourced venture capital service. People looking for investors post their projects there and ask for pledges roughly equal to the purchase price of the product. If the project gets enough pledges, the people making the pledges get their credit cards charged, the inventor gets the cash, and they put it towards production costs. This usually gets the investors a first-off-the-line product. If the project fails to get enough interest, investors aren’t charged, and that’s the end of it.
Magnic Light has several pledge levels, and at this writing is $45K+ of the way to their goal of $50,000, with 11 days to go. If you think you might be interested, stop by Kickstarter and check it out.
The other bike toy I found is the Wahoo Bike Pack for iPhone, for $149. As the name implies, it’s for iPhone users — they don’t have an Android or Windows model (yet). The pack includes a weatherproof case for the iPhone with appropriate mounts for the handlebars and a wireless speed and cadence sensor to send data to the included iPhone app. The app will track and record all of your performance data, while allowing you to play your tunes and stay in touch with home base.