Across the vast exhibition hall, rows of stalls stand neatly arranged. People pace the aisles, peering keenly over displays. Suited salespeople sip champagne, chatting over bowls of free breath mints branded with their company logos. Glanced from afar, one could be at any expo. There is even a hot-dog vendor in the distance.
But, once past the extra security and on to the exhibition floor, a wall-mounted rack of machine guns suggests something more sinister. Along each side of the expo’s alleyways are glass cases stocked full of colourful rows of teargas canisters, sound grenades and rubber bullets. Orange caps, blue caps, yellow caps, each signifying a different size and strength. Beside them stand life-sized mannequins, lips moulded into half smiles. Rather than donning the new season’s fashion, however, these are draped in the latest line of body armour. Even the boudoir corset on display is made of heavy-duty rubber.
Welcome to Milipol, Europe’s largest internal security expo. Operating since 1984 and now gearing up for its fourth decade, Milipol is one of the longest-running and most established security trade shows for military and policing. The 2013 event held in Paris featured over 900 exhibitors, drew 27,000 visitors and hosted 160 official delegations.