WALFORD — They look like custom floor mats found in many cars, sport utility vehicles and trucks, but they can quickly be used as lightweight shields that can stop bullets and save lives.
Attack Mats, invented and patented by Keith Brown of Walford, have a protective backing of Dyneema, an ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene fiber.
Ballistics tests performed by the New York City Police Department determined the mats can stop 45-caliber bullets and 12-guage shotgun shells from penetration.
Brown, a retired Cedar Rapids police officer, began working on the idea for a lightweight ballistic shield about four years ago.
“When I started on this in 2014 by doing research, less than 1 percent of the police cars in the country had any kind of ballistic protection other than the body armor that the officers wore,” Brown said.
“With the increase in shootings of police and crime in general, I wanted to come up with something that was quickly accessible, price-friendly for smaller departments and available for two-officer cars. One night it hit me that the answer was right underneath my feet.
“I needed to come up with something that gave a floor mat ballistic capabilities, be quickly accessible and could be used as a shield.”
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Brown said officers currently driving a Ford Explorer, one of the most popular police vehicles, have to push a rear door release button, get out of the vehicle and pull out their shields.
“With the Attack Mat, the officer grabs a handle on the mat as he gets out of the vehicle and unholsters his weapon with the shield in front of him,” Brown said.
“Those few seconds saved getting the shield and having his weapon ready could make a difference in an active shooter situation.
“Things have changed in the last few years with regard to handling an active shooter situation. Arriving officers used to set up a perimeter on all four sides of the building and negotiate to resolve the situation without anyone getting hurt.”
The quicker that an officer can get inside, the better, he said.
“We need to provide them a tool to get inside quickly while minimizing harm to them,” Brown added.
Brown used a pair of commercially available WeatherTech custom-molded floor mats, and designed a ballistic panel of Dyneema for the backside of the mat and worked with Hardwire LLC of Pocomoke City, Md., to bond the two pieces.
“We added handles on the top and bottom,” Brown said. “In a matter of seconds, any officer in the country can have a shield.”
Attack Mats are sold in pairs for $1,500 and sales are restricted to government agencies. The mats are not available for purchase by the general public.
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“We know that funding for the mats can be an issue, particularly in smaller departments, but there are organizations and corporations willing to step up and buy this kind of tool for their community,” Brown said.
Attack Mats weigh less than seven pounds apiece, enabling an officer to run with one.
The New York City Police Department is studying the use of Attack Mats in 10 police vehicles on a revolving basis to evaluate where they should be deployed, according to Robert Martinez, deputy commissioner-support services bureau.
“If money wasn’t a factor, I would put them in all of our vehicles immediately,” Martinez said in a phone interview.
Brown took Attack Mats to the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in October. He also has met with police departments across the country.
“Getting the product into the hands of police is the hardest part,” Brown said. “Once they are holding it and see what it can do, they can usually think of 10 times it would have been good to have available.”