Gimbel Frisk and Search Gloves, Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC) Case Study
A correctional officer prepares to pat down an inmate, carefully following departmental safety protocol by putting on a pair of latex gloves, double-gloving for extra security. The hypodermic needle, hidden in the seam of the government-issued pants, is an inch long and extremely sharp, and was most recently used by this prisoner to inject heroin, leaving a trace amount of blood in the needle. He, like over 34,0001 prisoners in America’s prisons and jails, is HIV-positive and was also infected with Hepatitis C three years ago. As the correctional officer slides his gloved hands along the inner seam of the pants, the dirty needle pierces his latex gloves.
The overall rate of confirmed AIDS in the prison population is five times greater than the rate in the general population of the United States, posing an increased risk of infection for correctional officers (Footnote 1). But an even larger and rapidly growing problem may be Hepatitis C, an incurable liver infection that can be spread through contact with blood and is generally contracted through intravenous drug use and shared needles. There are an estimated 1.4 million prisoners infected with Hepatitis C who travel in and out of the nation’s correctional facilities each year, putting correctional officers and law enforcement officers at risk as these prisoners are released (Footnote 2). Clearly public safety officers require good puncture-resistant protective gloves.
Three years ago, an Arizona surgeon contacted the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to learn how to approach the public safety market with the puncture-resistant gloves he had developed to protect medical staff from needle sticks. He was directed to NIJ’s Office of Science and Technology (OS&T), which had a program that seemed tailor made for what he needed—the Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC).
When OS&T was established by NIJ in 1992, its mission was to provide law enforcement and corrections agencies access to the best technologies available. One of the ways OS&T accomplishes this mission is through its network of regional and specialty technology centers—the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) System. OS&T suggested that the Gimbel Glove Company contact one of the specialty centers—OLETC. OLETC opened its doors in 1995 and rolled out a national program to help commercialize innovative technology that would help law enforcement and correctional officers to do their jobs more efficiently and more safely.
In the early 1980s, as it became increasingly apparent just how dangerous bloodborne diseases were becoming, Dr. Neal Gimbel began experimenting with a puncture-resistant protective glove, developing his ideas using hand molds and a vat of latex in his garage laboratory. For over 10 years, he worked, moving from the lab in the garage to facilities at DuPont Laboratories and later to Abbot Laboratories. In 1995, his perseverance paid off when he received the first of four eventual patents, this one for the manufacturing process for a puncture-resistant surgical glove. With the help of a small network of private investors, Gimbel officially launched the Gimbel Glove Company.
The timing of the call to NIJ couldn’t have been better. OLETC, OS&T, NLECTC-National, and the Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) were working together to develop a comparative evaluation protocol and testing program for protective gloves. They had developed a protective glove survey, distributed to law enforcement and corrections practitioners, that ranked the desired qualities of protective gloves. The top priority from 70 percent of all respondents was pathogenic protection, followed closely by puncture resistance (Footnote 3).
The Gimbel Glove Company needed OLETC’s help in several areas. They needed the in-the-field feedback from the potential users of their product; they needed to learn how to move their marketing strategy from the known medical community to the unknown public safety market; and they needed a distribution partner to make it all work.
Once OLETC confirms that a potential product or technology meets the needs of the law enforcement and corrections community, the program can help in a number of ways. For entrepreneurs who have a great idea but little experience in commercializing a product or for established businesses beginning to pursue the public safety market, OLETC hosts three to four Commercialization Planning Workshops® (CPWs) a year. The 5-day CPW arms technology product innovators with the appropriate tools and knowledge to take their ideas or product to market. And, it is free. At no cost, OLETC provides market research and evaluation, application and competitive analysis, information on intellectual property, licensing, strategic partnerships, and capital formation. They will evaluate the proposed technology, field test it, and coach participants in project management and commercialization planning.
OLETC also hosts a National Commercialization Conference (NCC) every year. Last year’s NCC 2000 pulled together more than 50 exhibitors, including national innovators, manufacturers, and venture capitalists with 200 attendees. OLETC staff make sure the appropriate matches of investors, inventors, manufacturers, and distributors happen. Seven products are currently in negotiation for licensing or partnership agreements that began from relationships forged at NCC 2000.
But, the creme de la creme for demonstrating what technology can do and for getting immediate, targeted market research is the Mock Prison Riot, held annually in a West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville that closed in 1995. The riot brings in hundreds of corrections officers and tactical teams from all over this country and from other countries as well to actually wear, handle, use, and evaluate new technologies in a number of authentic riot situations. Organized by OLETC, the Moundsville Economic Council, and the West Virginia Division of Corrections, Mock Prison Riot 2001 showcased 77 different technologies for almost 1,400 law enforcement and corrections professionals from 35 States and 4 countries.
In 1999, the Gimbel Glove Company brought their protective gloves to the riot and used the feedback from the tactical teams to guide the development of the current glove. The most recent iteration of the Gimbel Frisk and Search Glove is constructed of two layers of natural rubber latex with special pads applied to the fingertips and thumb. The fingertip pads, interposed between the latex layers, are woven of nine additional layers of puncture-resistant polymer mesh sealed around the edges, creating a virtually impenetrable pad in the fingertips and thumbs, where 90 percent of cuts and punctures occur.
The company now had a good product that had received a strong, positive response from the field, but they were having a difficult time breaking into the public safety market. It is extremely difficult to enter the very relationship-oriented law enforcement marketplace regardless of the features a new product may offer. A well-connected distribution partner that could get the protective gloves into the market would solve the problem. OLETC contacted the Hatch Corporation, a privately held company, located in Oxnard, California, that has been selling protective gear, mainly gloves, to law enforcement for 11 years. The Gimbel Glove fit into the add-on category and was like nothing else Hatch had in its catalogue. On May 1, 2001, the Gimbel Glove Company and the Hatch Corporation officially became partners in the marketing, sale, and distribution of the Gimbel Frisk and Search Gloves.
The Gimbel Glove Company attributes their success in the criminal justice market to OLETC—from the identification of the market and its particular needs and methods of operating to the establishment of a distribution channel, the Gimbel Glove Company would not be in the position they are today without them.
For more information please contact OLETC Project Manager Wayne Barte at 888/306-5382.
1HIV in Prisons and Jails, 1999, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2001
2 Hepatitis C and Incarcerated Populations: The Next Wave for Correctional Health Initiatives, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, November 2000
3Protective Glove Project, Information Response Profile Summary, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, July 1997