Input From the Boys in Blue
LECTUS equipment and technology is still in the developmental phase. But some of the technology, such as the MICH helmets, are already being tested by some law enforcement agents, says Lawrence Kosiba, president of the Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization, a part of the Justice Department's that is working with the NPC towards modifying military technology.
And other developments, such as new LECTUS uniform materials, are being tested constantly. One such development, a new chemical suit, was recently field-tested in a mock prison riot drill at an annual OLETC gathering in Wheeling, W.Va.
The suit, says Kosiba, was designed to be semi-permeable and allows the wearer's body heat and sweat to escape, while keeping out harmful chemical agents such as tear gas — a much needed improvement over what riot officers and prison guards now wear.
"I'm from a fire and military background with 27 years of experience," said Kosiba. "And I've worn some of the charcoal rubber suits, like the old Gulf [War] apparel, that couldn't let out the heat and steam and wasn't breathable. Those were monsters."
Still, Kosiba admits that LECTUS still has plenty of ways to go. "We found some [military] equipment that just wasn't suitable," he said.
For example, for the Land Warrior program, the military had developed a system that would allow soldiers to instantly track where other members were. Such "situational awareness" capabilities are designed to prevent friendly fire incidents.
While such a system could be beneficial for SWAT members and prison guards that need to storm an occupied building from multiple entrances, it was impractical since it was the size of a backpack.
"And it wouldn't work for correctional officers because if an inmate got a hold of it, it could be dangerous for fellow officers," said Kosiba.
But he says that since OLETC is working with the NPC and military researchers, he's confident that law enforcement agencies could really benefit from the technologies.
"This is one of the federal programs that makes sense," said Kosiba. "You are already spending the tax dollars to develop this technology for the military, why not put it to good use?"
And NPC's Gonzalez says the feedback from OLETC is also helping to fuel further developments on the military side as well.
"As far as we're all concerned, one agency just can't do this all alone," said Gonzalez. "It will take a collaboration of users and agencies and teams to make it happen."
Since LECTUS is still in conceptual testing stage, researchers haven't been able to say how much a fully integrated police uniform may cost. But researchers are confident that costs will be significantly lower than any military Land Warrior system, a program that the military has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on over the last decade.
"Let's just say that creating the LECTUS won't cost as much," said Gonzalez. "It's not even close to [being] a multimillion-dollar program."
And since the technology development is shared with the existing Land Warrior program, LECTUS could be ready for law enforcement agents as soon as 2005.