Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Police and Security Expo, July 2-4 1996, Manchester’s G-Mex

News and Other Busyness

Police EXPO On Security Hardware

Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 10.

EVERY YEAR police forces invest in new toys. CS gas sprays, side-handled batons, flashing blue badges, quick-cuffs, new computers, new software, new body armour, new forensic equipment, new cars, new uniforms, flat caps, CCTV and more and more guns.

Several years ahead of the game are the people who develop and make these gadgets, the ever-growing security hardware industry. Once they’ve invented something they’ve got to market it, using all the advertising ingenuity they can muster. Some of their creations don’t have too much of a market in Britain, such as assault rifles, jumbo handcuffs, or grenade launchers. No problem. We’ll invite some foreign governments with appalling human rights records to come across and buy them instead.

Welcome to the inaugural Police and Security Expo, July 2-4 in Manchester’s G-Mex, brought to you in conjunction with the Association of Chief Police Officers and sadly not open to the public.

The police forces were the main customers at the Expo, but also prominent exhibitors. Thames Valley Police were plugging Countrywatch, their mass surveillance operation of ravers and Travellers. Could it by any chance be a money-spinner? Other forces were showing off their proudest achievements, from computer programs to Virtual Reality firing ranges, each scrambling for a few extra pennies from another force’s budget. One company offered ‘a complete range of Masonic Regalia and Leatherware’.

The exhibitors which caught the most attention however were the out and out arms dealers. The exhibition gave floor space to companies wishing to sell amongst other things: Riot control grenade launchers; jumbo handcuffs (which can be converted into leg manacles by adding a short chain); Paralyser tear gas; computerised battle management systems; armoured vehicles; and pump-action shotguns capable of firing grenades, gas or shells.

The day before the Expo, Manchester Campaign Against Arms Trade learned that one of the exhibitors would be Heckler and Koch, a notorious German subsidiary of British Aerospace, whose client list includes the governments of Indonesia and Thailand. They are currently believed to be negotiating the sale of 350,000 assault rifles to Turkey.

As the conference prepared to welcome a delegation from Turkey a small group of protestors gathered outside with some placards and leaflets, before being moved twenty yards onto the pavement. Later, one of the activists gained entrance with a reporter from local radio.

He was quickly recognised from the morning demo by the security manager who told him, “If I wasn’t on duty I’d kick your fucking head in,” before throwing the activist and the reporter out of the building.

The demonstrators considered themselves pretty lucky to have been moved on by some grumpy British Bobbies and security guards. Had they been in Turkey, they may well have been moved on by Heckler and Koch assault rifles.