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Sunday, 02 February 2014 14:18

Kalamazoo firm manufactures bulletproof shield designed by Lansing company

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Kalamazoo-based Pinto Products Inc. manufactures the Cide Shield for Citadel Defense Technologies Inc. of Lansing. Executives at both firms have backgrounds in police work. Citadel founder Jon Priebe designed the ballistics shield to protect an officer’s head and neck as he approaches a suspect or a suspicious situation, as well as to serve in place of a standard-issue flashlight. He connected with Matthew Pinto and Pinto Products through a mutual friend. Kalamazoo-based Pinto Products Inc. manufactures the Cide Shield for Citadel Defense Technologies Inc. of Lansing. Executives at both firms have backgrounds in police work. Citadel founder Jon Priebe designed the ballistics shield to protect an officer’s head and neck as he approaches a suspect or a suspicious situation, as well as to serve in place of a standard-issue flashlight. He connected with Matthew Pinto and Pinto Products through a mutual friend. COURTESY PHOTO

Police officers constantly put themselves in potentially dangerous situations, but a new product that’s a collaboration of two Michigan-based businesses hopes to offer them better protection.

Jon Priebe, a retired Lansing police officer who continues to work in law enforcement, has invented Cide Shield, a bulletproof, transparent shield designed to protect the head and neck of police officers, especially those in a department’s uniform patrol division.

The shield is the result of Priebe’s own on-the-job experiences and his work as a field training officer.

“In training new recruits I would teach them how to be safe and what to look for,” Priebe said. “Uniform patrol has really one of the hardest jobs, and yet they have the least amount of protection.”

He established Citadel Defense Technologies Inc. with business partner J. Bryan LeGwin to produce the shield.

Designed to be held with one hand and used in place of a standard-issue flashlight, the shield is intended for use whenever an officer approaches a suspect or a suspicious situation. When an officer walks up to a suspect in a vehicle, he can use the lights on the shield to blind a subject, and even if the lights were hit with gunfire, the bullet would be stopped from penetrating the shield.

The ballistics shield picks up where department-issued bulletproof vests stop, Priebe said, noting he had to buy his own vest when he first started in law enforcement.

The same was true for Matthew Pinto, who was an officer in St. Louis County, Missouri for 10 years. Today, Pinto is part owner of a Kalamazoo-based manufacturing company that has started producing the shield Priebe’s company developed.

Pinto, co-owner of Pinto Products Inc., calls the shield a “gamechanger” for law enforcement.

While he expects some initial resistance from officers to using the shield, the product’s ability to save officers’ lives should sway opinions, Pinto said, noting he remembers older officers balking at having to wear bulletproof vests when they were first introduced.

“It’s designed to protect the head and neck,” Pinto said of the Cide Shield. “It won’t stop everything. It’s designed to offer an extra level of protection to patrol officers.”

The shield, which weighs 10 pounds, is made of a polycarbonate urethane laminate that is 7/8-inch thick and contains two light modules that each produce 1,000 lumens, enough to temporarily blind a suspect. The shield will stop a handgun round up to and including a .357 Magnum, a feat that convinced officials with the National Institute of Justice to certify the protective device, Pinto said.

“It withstood five shots from a .357 Magnum. None of them penetrated,” Pinto said. “That was the piece of the puzzle we were waiting for.”

Having the product certified by the National Institute of Justice makes it eligible for law enforcement agencies to purchase with federal funds, he said.

The shield will retail for $1,599, which is less than other shields on the market, Pinto said. A sheriff’s department in California has already placed an order for testing purposes.

Priebe was issued a patent for the shield in 2013, eight years after he began designing it. A mutual friend introduced him to Pinto. Their individual experiences and the number of officers who have died after being shot is always on their minds, Priebe said. They both agree officers need more protection, especially given the availability of sophisticated weapons and ammunition.

“In uniform patrol, you have no idea what you’re walking up on like suspects or a barricaded gunman,” Priebe said. “As you’re walking up on a car, most criminals all know that police wear a vest. With my shield, it’s like walking up with two flashlights and a bulletproof covering for the head and neck. Whoever is going to take you out has to overcome that also.”

The fatal shooting of Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield on Sept. 9 is an example of the dangers officers can face. During a routine traffic stop in Mason County, Butterfield was shot in the head and found lying on the ground by a passing motorist.

Following Butterfield’s murder, Priebe said he was called into a state legislator’s office to find out why the shield wasn’t in every police officer’s patrol car.

Officers who respond to crisis situations such as school shootings are just as vulnerable, he said.

“If you had a school shooting and were to lock down the school, officers would immediately establish a perimeter and wait for the special tactics team to show up — and that doesn’t work because kids are being killed,” Priebe said. “In the meantime, you’ve got a team of officers going in with minimal protection to begin the search for the suspect.”

The typical reaction from officers to his ballistics shield is “why didn’t I think of that,” he said.

“I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when this shield takes a bullet meant for an officer,” Pinto said. “You can’t put a price on that.”

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