The Non-Lethal Illusion of School Safety
My September 1 article, “The Screaming, Flashing, Low Resolution Laser Pepper Camera Transmitter Abomination” provoked interest, and a letter from one Paul Hughes, C.O.O. of the company responsible for the device referenced in the article, the Guardian 8 Pro V2.
Good afternoon Bob (Bob Owens, Bearing Arms Editor]:
I recently read Mike McDaniel’s article on our product and thought it might be worth reaching out to you regarding its content. It read as an indictment of our intent in keeping kids and staff safe at school and he furthered this with conjecture that we were suggesting that our technology, or any technology, could replace lethal force when it is justified. As a former US Marine with combat experience and as a former Smith & Wesson employee I hope you take me at my word that the 2nd amendment is more than just a political discussion point for me. My experience at Taser International rounded out my knowledge of what is operationally feasible for security officers.
What Guardian 8 advocates for is a layered defense for our schools, universities, hospitals, sporting venues and corporate campuses. How the layers are configured is a teaching point we deliver to school administrators on a weekly basis and includes the lesson of not bringing a knife to a gunfight. Run-Hide-Fight doesn’t work but we think the focus of the “Delay & Defend” protocol (prior to LE arrival) holds promise. Each of the industries we serve are definitely concerned about active shooters, as in Mike’s example, but the majority of their concern is about lower level conflicts where the use of lethal force would be indefensible and result in years of litigation. This video of a school security officer getting body slammed by a student is one “shoot-don’t shoot” discussion we have with them. As you may imagine, the discussions get lively but they also illustrate that the team had nothing to address the incident. These discussions often lead to pricing questions and we explain that the unit with no other accessories is affordably priced at $279 apiece and requires no monthly subscription fees.
Philosophically, Mike and I are miles apart in arguing that one tool could address the security concerns of a school but I have a lot of respect for his background. His experience in Cold War military service is commendable and his police service certainly engrained the value of capping off a non-lethal toolkit with a lethal capability in order to ensure he went home safely each night, career and life intact. His teachings in the Japanese arts remind him – and others in the practice – not to become the monsters we hope to eradicate.
I have three asks of you as a publisher:
- A)Recommend that writers who evaluate a technology actually hold it and try it out. Whether you love it or hate it should be first-hand experience. We offer this on our site (free) and I’m guessing that Mike didn’t see that page.
- B)Encourage fact-checking of the stories being published. Mike mentions that our camera is low resolution, citing a 1megapixel camera as proof. Megapixels describe the size of an image, much like saying I have 5” x 7” photo of my jarhead buddies on my desk. It speaks nothing to the resolution of the images. The fact is that the Pro V2 product is capable of high definition video at 720x480p.
- C)Clarify that our website makes no mention of law enforcement as our target audience. This tool was not tuned to that mission.
Best of luck to you in your continued success. Stay safe.
The thrust of the original article is best expressed by this paragraph:
The problem with such devices is they tempt the uninformed, politically correct or merely timid to abandon truly effective means of protecting lives. Once a school administrator purchases a large number of such expensive devices, they can scarcely admit they made a major mistake, and end up inflicting ineffective, even ridiculous and dangerous methods and policies on those not in a position to effectively argue against them.
And so it was, the very day after I replied to Mr. Hughes, I found a shiny new G8 Pro V2 and accompanying Blade Tech holster in my hands, delivered in person to my wretched hovel by a helpful and savvy local representative who was careful to impress upon me that the Pro V2 is primarily designed for and marketed to the security market. I have no reason to doubt him in that assertion, however, I have no reason to doubt that the company will sell the product to those who, lacking adequate tactical knowledge and resolve, might be tempted to use it in the sense of bringing a pepper sprayer to a gunfight.
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In this, the Guardian 8 cannot be blamed. They market a legal, and in its way, quite neat product. It’s up to the end user to make the most of it, and not to use it in inappropriate circumstances.
Before I get into my exploration of the Pro V2, perhaps I should address Mr. Hughes’ three concerns. He was correct, I didn’t see the offer to which he refers on the V2 site, and I thank him for the loan of a V2, and the follow up. There is no question that if the attention provided me reflects that provided any of his customers, Guardian 8’s customer service is admirable indeed.
As to the issue of fact-checking, when I wrote the original story, this screenshot from the Pro V2 website illustrates the totality of the information available to me regarding the resolution of the Pro V2’s video capability. To whatever degree that needs correction, Mr. Hughe’s letter has accomplished it. I’ll speak to that issue shortly as well.
Regarding the target audience, photos from the Pro V2 website accompanying my original article do say “for Workplace Security” and “for Professional Security,” but also feature a photo of a gentleman in what many might take for a police uniform. An additional impetus for my article was an article by Mr. Hughes clearly touting the Pro V2. A quote from that article:
“The first commercially-available ENL [enhanced non-lethal] product is the G8 Pro V2—a cost-effective tool that can enable school emergency response teams to delay an attack and defend students if necessary, while documenting the event and communicating with law enforcement, with just one device. At less than the cost of a smart phone, the G8 Pro V2 can be used by anyone who is properly trained, including teachers and coaches. Congress needs to stop dragging its feet, stop spending money on consultants and start spending precious, limited budget dollars on actual tools that can provide protection now.”
While Mr. Hughes is correct in saying that his company is apparently not marketing directly to the police market—I suspect few police agencies would buy the product—his article and advertising could inspire that impression. In any case, Mr. Hughes has now had the opportunity to make his views known in his own words.
The Pro V2 is a well-designed and manufactured device. The Blade Tech holster fits precisely and securely, protecting the unit from inadvertent damage. The V2 is drawn by releasing a conventional thumb snap. In promotional literature, the V2 appears to be a silverish-gray, but it’s actually white. It is white on purpose, the intention being that it not be mistaken for a firearm.
It’s features are clearly designed for the security market, the intention obviously being to record video of any use of force encounter not only to use in a prosecution, but to protect the security officers and their employers from excessive use of force suits. It is equally obviously designed to be carried by security personnel not armed with firearms.
After my years in law enforcement, I cannot imagine wearing a uniform that looks even remotely like a police officer’s while armed with nothing more than pepper spray. However, this is common practice for many security companies, and there is doubtless a potentially lucrative market in that industry.
Relatively small training (water) or live pepper spray cartridges slide easily into the handgrip, which also encompasses the rechargeable battery. The entire unit is quite light, and while the grip is gun-like, the unit feels nothing, in balance particularly, like a handgun. This is not a device that is going to provide 20 five-second long streams of pepper spray, but in reality, that’s unlikely to be an issue. Range is about average for commercial chemical spray dispensers, about 8-10 feet as long as there isn’t any real wind involved.
The recommendation for use is to flip the “arm” switch, activating the camera and laser pointer–accompanied by a chirpy chirp–and tell a suspect they’re being recorded in the hope they’ll back down or otherwise deescalate the situation. One must keep the camera pretty much pointed directly at them–it’s not a real wide-angle lens. If the operator is a bit shaky, that won’t help image quality.
The unit has rudimentary gun sights in the fashion of a handgun, but I can’t imagine anyone actually using them. The laser pointer fulfills that function far better and as long as one is within eight feet or less, surely much more accurately, not that the stream of pepper spray can be counted on to impact on the laser dot in the same way a properly aimed laser sight on a firearm would work.
Should the ambidextrous arming switch and a verbal warning not work, a partial trigger pull does turn on the siren, strobe light and the blue tooth link. The siren is quite loud and annoying, and the strobe light–I tested it indoors and outdoors–is noticeable, but hardly disorienting. However, if the intention is to attract attention and make a suspect aware of that attention, the siren and strobe would certainly accomplish that.
The Bluetooth feature remains a bit puzzling. It does indeed call a pre-programmed number, and like most automotive programs, will allow the user to hold a two-way conversation through the Pro V2, but like any cell phone, making the connection, picking up the phone, establishing voice contact, and identifying each other takes substantial time, far more time than simply using a radio, which most security personnel have. For people without two-way radios, only cell-phones, it would be somewhat more convenient in that one wouldn’t have to simultaneously manipulate a cell phone. It’s an interesting feature, but I doubt I’d ever use it.
The final stage is a full trigger pull, which requires a long and dedicated pull of the trigger and looses the pepper spray. Fortunately, the siren and strobe features of the Pro V2 can be user-deactivated. The siren is loud enough to be really annoying and to make it impossible to be understood, in person and over the phone.
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After use, the recorded video can be downloaded to a computer, but the software has administrative functions that limit what a user can do. Normally, a security officer downloading his video can’t alter or access it other than to download it. A number of the features of the unit are altered only through that software and only when the unit is attached for downloading. For the employers of security officers, such administrative control makes sense.
The recorded video is, by the standards of contemporary video cameras, of average quality, but all such things are a trade off. It’s not a $1300 dollar video camera. For its intended purpose, it’s adequate.
It is a large device. Consider this photograph of a Pro V2 with a Glock 17–hardly a tiny handgun–for comparison. It is actually about an inch and a half taller than the Glock and somewhat wider, but not as long. Mr. Hughes is right in asserting that it wasn’t designed expressly for the police market: it’s simply too big to fit on most officer’s duty belts considering all the gear they have to carry and many of its features are superfluous for the police.
The G8 Pro V2 is thoughtfully designed and obviously the product of substantial feedback between the company and its customers. For a Pro V2, holster and a few practice and live cartridges, around $350.00 is required. It’s not inexpensive, but for some people and for some applications, is likely the best of its kind.
My concerns remain. Many school administrators are prone to do anything to avoid arming teachers, even security personnel, with firearms. While a school security officer might find use for the device in dealing with aggressive students, in any active shooter attack, only firearms can and will stop the killers and save lives. Anyone using a Pro V2—or any non-lethal device—in an attempt to delay an attacker in the hope that the police will arrive to save them—in about 15 minutes as at Sandy Hook or several hours as at Columbine—will almost certainly be shot in the process, and in dying, save no one. A killer will be delayed only long enough to pull a trigger.
Again, I don’t suggest that Guardian 8 would find that state of affairs satisfactory. From my contacts with them, I’m satisfied they understand one shouldn’t bring a pepper sprayer to a gunfight. However, not everyone, particularly in the world of education, is so well and rationally informed. For such people, non-lethal or purely defensive devices provide the illusion of safety rather than actual safety.
Our children and their teachers deserve better.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.