Photo: Impact Armor.
Considering the uncertainty of any encounter while on patrol, it doesn't hurt to have a secret defense at your disposal. If that item is a functional, comfortable clipboard, all the better. The Ballistic Clipboard manufactured by Cleveland-based Impact Armor Technologies
provides NIJ Level IIIA protection and weighs less than two pounds.
"The form factor is lightweight and thin, so it's something that can be put in a case, or in a motor officer's saddlebags," says Matt Raplenovich, director of operations. "But also, it's contoured and sculpted with a built-in handle so it's easy to grab and to hold. People have commented that functionally it's a better clipboard, even if it were just made of pressed board."
Made using a Kevlar weave, the Ballistic Clipboard maintains its strength and ballistic protection without the weight of other similar products. And the fact that it's not made of a hard plastic, like some standard clipboards, means that the board won't shatter into shrapnel that could harm a police officer. It's been tested to provide ballistic protection at both a distance and point-blank range.
It was a police officer touring the company's facility as a customer of sister company Team Wendy who came up with the product idea on the fly. Impact Armor Technologies has now repositioned itself to perfect and sell the Ballistic Clipboard to law enforcement, in addition to its original focus of creating vehicle armor for the military. Already a hit with officers as a prototype, the Ballistic Clipboard now incorporates changes requested by those who tested it in the field. It has smoother edges so it won't catch on anything when being removed from a patrol bag, and the ambidextrous handle has been redesigned.
"The handhold changed shape just a little bit to make it more comfortable to the user, and also we did increase the opening size so the part where your fingers go through is easier to use with gloves," says Raplenovich. "It now provides a more positive connection with the clipboard in all conditions." A sturdier, waterproof material has also been added.
It's important to company engineers that law enforcement officers have a tool that works for them, even if that means some more tweaks down the line. Different sizes and colors could be introduced if there's enough of a demand. "As a product whose genesis was from the end user, it's designed to their specifications instead of us pushing it out the door on them," Raplenovich says.
When it comes to providing protection, law enforcement officers can use the clipboard to do more than stop bullets, thanks in part to its ergonomically designed handle and light weight.
"Hopefully officers don't have to use this clipboard for that, but there are some hidden benefits to it," says Rob Slattery, a medically retired police officer who's found a second career at Impact Armor Technologies. "It's not a threatening tool. It's not like you're walking up with your gun out or anything like that. But you could use it to push somebody off of you, God forbid somebody was reaching for your gun. You could use it as a striking tool, as well as ballistic protection."