Can your baton do this?

The police baton seems to be one of those few standard-issue, time-tested items that law enforcement officers of virtually all generations, ranks and locations have in common. Though somewhat “vanilla” compared with all the other flashy do-dads that cling to a duty belt nowadays, the baton is still old-faithful in the world of patrol. The question is: If it’s not broke, can you still fix it (or at least re-define it)? That’s what Arthur Clyde, owner of SMART (Standard Multiple Application Response Tool) Baton set out to do. His company, which has been around for a little over a year, is rethinking the patrol baton. Clyde remembers from his own experience in law enforcement that although everybody liked the baton as a tool, it was sometimes too big to carry—in fact some officers ditched it altogether.

“There’s not much in the way of baton technology out there now,” says Clyde, a former New Jersey State Police trooper. He stands by the SMART Baton’s plastic construction because it ensures the device is less lethal, but also because it is easier to grip. “We don’t advocate hitting anyone with a metal piece, and the metal batons are hard to hold onto, especially if you’re a little excited and your palms start to sweat and you have to sling that thing to open it. I want to say … 25 percent of the time the thing winds up on the ground. So that’s why we came out.”

The small baton is also unique in that it contains a 300-lumen flashlight. This allows users a free hand for their gun, as well as an intermediate weapon at the ready without having to draw something from the belt. In an incident, the light and the baton would be readily available.

The SMART Baton, now in its first run of production, continues to pad its resume. The side-handled tool boasts detachable multi-function strike portions. A lighter (screw-on) strike portion is ideal for officers, say, on bike patrol while its nubby end or “duty carry” is suited for everyday use. Officers can block, rear-strike, punch and still have their high-quality light on the end. “It’s particularly popular with prisons because now [guards] can go into a cell with not only a light, [but with] an intermediate weapon in their hand,” says Clyde.

But the 2-pound baton isn’t merely suited for corrections and patrol. “It’s nice because we go into a lot of very dark places, a lot of big, empty buildings and it’s good to have … for peace of mind,” says Mark Hopkins, chief of Greater Philadelphia Search & Rescue. Hopkins has been involved in emergency services for about 20 years. Noting it’s handiness and light weight, he has recently used the SMART Baton, clipped onto his pack through MOLLE attachments, when he performs search and rescue missions. “We look for missing people and we have to go into all kinds of areas. I’m doing more stuff with it like clearing out, pushing things back … it’s saving me from having to touch stuff,” says Hopkins. He notes with its smaller size someone could apply pressure to another person if they needed to, but it’s not physically threatening in a sense where it will initiate confrontation. “And the light is fantastic.”

SMART Baton 2.0?

The SMART gadget is currently being used by Metro Police Department officers outside of Washington, D.C., to favorable reviews. But it’s still got some growing to do. Clyde is already planning to add on a metal detector that screws onto the end of the unit (another helpful extra for corrections officers). And waiting in the wings is the addition of pepper spray inside the side handle. The idea there is to use a chemical component as opposed to strike force. Such an all-in-one combo would certainly lighten the duty belt as well as offer law enforcement men and women a few different approaches, depending on the situation.

Additionally, Clyde is working to get a USB port stored inside a small chip in the handle. This would do a few things: It would be able to download information to a computer and store data. In conjunction with that, a card reader could gather information from drivers’ licenses. Clyde explains, “If I approach a vehicle, and ask for license and registration, I could scan your license without you being aware of it. We’d send a signal to the station through the repeater system. If the guy was suspended or had warrants the handle of the baton would vibrate once if you were suspended, or twice if you had warrants.”

Looking ahead, Clyde has even more projects in the works. One is an easy road flare baton for helping officers remain visible while directing traffic. Another is a baton with a strike meter, which would record the heft of a strike in foot-pounds. This would be especially helpful inside the academy, so when officers should use the baton in a real-life situation they’ll know their own strength, so to speak. He expects some of the newest features to be ready to demonstrate at the IACP show in Chicago, Oct. 22 to 26 (booth 655).

Hopkins has his own wish list. In his search and rescue activities, he wouldn’t mind seeing a short-range way to use the emergency alert system to keep track of people in a group. “Even if I had some kind of proximity [feature] where it would vibrate a little when it got near another [baton] ... a lot of times in the dark I don’t know, and you don’t want to just yell out.”

The possibilities are endless. “It’s a lot more resilient than you’d think it is,” says Hopkins of the SMART Baton. “It fits perfectly in the duty belt and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do … and it has the potential to do a lot more.”