"Guardian Angels" developed to help law enforcement communicate

RACINE (WITI) -- We hear about first responders making daily sacrifices, and two in southeastern Wisconsin did just that -- turning an idea into reality. Now, they're hoping to launch a booming business -- selling LED lights that help first responders.

There are risks at every traffic stop, and challenges each time an officer steps out of their squad car.

Last year, thousands were gathered on Racine's Lakeshore -- searching for a six-year-old child who was lost. The child was discovered among the massive crowd, but reuniting her with her family proved difficult.

"It was very hard to relay to the sergeant our location because of all the people," Investigator Chad Stillman said.

Stillman turned on a set of his own lights, resembling the kind you'd find on his squad car.

"The second I turned it on, the sergeant was able to see me," Stillman said.

Kevin Matte (a police officer) and Juan Gomez (former firefighter) have spent over 11 years developing "The Guardian Angel."

It's a magnetic device that can be worn on clothing that is activated, and LED lights flash brilliantly across the horizon.

The device acts like squad lights, but snaps onto the officer while he or she is well outside their squad.

"It's visible from 360 degrees," Gomez said.

The local developers got the idea for "The Guardian Angel" by seeing first responders struggle to communicate with each other while at a crowded concert.

Each unit retails for just under $200. The goal this year is to reach $8 million in sales.

"Ideally, we'd like to see at least 40,000 units in 2014," Gomez said.

Matte's Harley-Davidson motorcycle helped to raise the necessary cash to get the process going, and Gomez works full-time to sell the product -- marketing it primarily to a potential customer base of millions of first responders.

"Myself -- I sacrificed my own 401K. The market is so huge that we've only touched one percent of the market. We didn't create this company just to make money. It's about creating safety and saving lives," Gomez said.

The duo says the Racine Police Department has purchased a number of units, and they have also seen sales from outside the state.

Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan says you can add his city to the list of customers.

"These devices are nearly $200 a piece. Is it worth it for cities? Is it worth it for taxpayers? I would say so," Alderman Donovan said.

Alderman Donovan says money from private companies and foundations will go towards testing the devices on some MPD officers, with the possibility of additional purchases.

"I think if it makes sense, I think it's something we as a city would want to make an investment in," Alderman Donovan said.