In these days of the new “Resist Police Movement” subjects’ intent upon engaging and violently assaulting police, often in packs, have become the norm. Every day, I watch with both concerns and frustration as protesters overtly and by surprise violently attack cops who are not carrying nor using their batons as a less-lethal self-defense weapon.
In response, the cops I have observed instead engage their assailants with fisticuffs, or attempt MMA “take-down” tactics. These are most often unsuccessful and force the cops to the ground where you never want to go, willingly. Where does this mindset come from?
Cops who are attacked in close quarters, especially by surprise, by single or multiple assailants, will quickly find that their TASER® and chemical OC spray are utterly useless. The use of hard striking techniques such as punches, unless properly trained and delivered, can easily fracture an cop’s hand which immediately takes them out of the fight.
Straight kicks can be effective if properly aimed and delivered, but they place the cop at risk of losing their balance and footing. This is because cops are heavily laden with body armor and duty belts piled on with safety equipment.
WHY DON’T COPS CARRY THEIR ISSUED BATONS?
As a long-time use-of-force instructor and a forensic investigator of officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, I am seeing an increasing number of confrontations between cops and subjects where the subjects are unarmed. The cops are either precluded from using their ECWs, or don’t have them. Alternately, they don’t use or don’t have their batons for self-defense.
My case research leads me to believe that there are many reasons for cops not using an impact weapon against a physically threatening or assaultive subject:
A lack of confidence and competency in using their batons
Over-reliance on ECWs
The “Ferguson Effect”
These are situations where cops are phobic about engaging resistant subjects to effect an arrest.
They often think that it is wrong to use their batons to overcome threatening resistance or assaultive behavior. The violent images of LAPD cops repeatedly striking Rodney King with batons and the aftermath of the 1993 South Central Los Angeles riots remain engrained in the memories of America’s law enforcement officers.
However, allow me to present a more logical and rational argument to cop in support of using one of the most versatile self-defense and control weapons in a street cop’s arsenal—The Baton.
No less-lethal or control weapon is faster to access, deploy, and effectively engage a threatening subject at close range than the baton. It matters not whether the impact weapon of choice is a straight stick, or an expandable baton. In the skilled hands of a competent, trained officer, the baton should be every cop’s first “go-to” defensive weapon against an unarmed subject at close range.
There are two essential profiles for the classic unarmed resistant subject who overtly threatens to harm or assault an officer. FIRST, Subjects who are mentally unbalanced, psychotic, and/or under the influence of powerful stimulants are pain resistant. SECOND: subjects who are intoxicated, non-compliant, and threatening to harm cops. They do feel pain, so the infliction of pain as a “behavior modifier” is effective.
While ECWs such as TASERS® can be used against pain-resistant and psychotic subjects, typically they are only 60% effective. Heavy or loose-fitting clothing, the distance between the cop and the subject, and operator error all negatively impact the effectiveness of ECWs.
So, when you are in close contact with a threatening subject, the ECW is not your defensive weapon of choice. Even at close distances, ECW drive-stuns are utterly ineffective and your close-in fight will rarely if ever provide you with an opportunity for a probe shot followed up by a three-point contact.
Chemical sprays such as OC, Mace, and OC/CS/CN combinations can be nearly useless at close ranges unless the cop is using a conical spray pattern. And aerosol sprays are negatively affected by such common environmental conditions as wind, rain, sleet, and snow.
In order to be effective, inflammatory agents such as OC must be directed at the head/face to affect vision and respiration. Pain tolerant subjects are unaffected by chemical agents. In fact, they tend to become more angry and agitated when sprayed. Cops deploying chemical sprays also need to be concerned about cross- and self-contamination, as well as subject aftercare.
Conversely, the baton is a reliable intermediate-level, less-lethal, self-defense control weapon that can be immediately deployed and used as a striking, jabbing, and leveraging device.
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A solid, well-placed baton strike or strikes will not only cause significant pain, but it will also create debilitating, threat-stopping trauma to large muscle groups. Done properly they will effect nerve distractions and fractures to the attacking subject’s personal body weapons such as hands, arms, legs, and feet.
A perfect example of the aforementioned can been seen in a body cam video available on the front page of www.peacekeeperproducts.com titled, “What’s Your Plan B.”
When subjects who have not yet been searched are on the ground in the prone position, with their hands/arms hidden under their torsos, the baton becomes an excellent mechanical leverage device to free arms and hands for cuffing. Under such circumstances, repeated ECW drive-stuns and chemical agents are totally ineffective.
Straight stick and expandable batons can also be placed across the back of a prone subject’s knees with downward pressure to secure legs and prevent the subject from kicking controlling cops.
The baton is a street-ready, multi-purpose device that can be quickly accessed and deployed as a weapon or control tool. It can also be used as an instrument for opening doors during searches. It can breach the glass windows of vehicles and premises, when needed. These are benefits no chemical or less-lethal electronic weapon provides the field officer.
Batons can be rudimentary in design, and often perceived as “Old School” by the newer generations of cops. However, the experienced cop should understand and appreciate the utility of the baton and its role in officer safety. The baton may be the last line of defense before a possible OIS, especially when other less-lethal options fail to subdue or control the subject.
There are several baton options available in the law enforcement market. Straight sticks continue to be a good option for cops, while expandable baton models are very popular and the technologically has proved itself.
My personal favorite, which I carried in the field, is the Rapid Containment Baton (RCB). It is an expandable baton manufactured by Peacekeeper International of Pomona, CA. I find that the benefits of the RCB are its weight distribution, handling characteristics, ergonomics, and most importantly, the delivery of overwhelming, powerful kinetic energy to targeted areas.
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What sets the RCB apart from its competitors is that it is perimeter weighted. RCB batons redistribute the weight toward the distal end where contact with the target is made, instead of at its proximal or handle end. This means that any cop can achieve more impact with less swing, making it a great weapon for smaller and slightly built officers.
Having carried and tested both straight stick and expandable batons, I have found nothing to compare to the kinetic force projection of the RCB baton. As an aside, the psychological effect of simply accessing and expanding the RCB in the presence of a verbally threatening subject is a sight to behold. It expands with a sound similar to the racking of a 12-gauge pump shotgun.
The Peacekeeper baton product line includes models ranging from 21 inches to 29 inches with weights of approximately 1 ounce per inch of baton. The batons are available in black zinc and corrosion-resistant electroless nickel. Peacekeeper also offers a wide variety of holster options specific to its batons. www.peacekeeperproducts.com
The Armament Systems & Procedures Co., better known as ASP, continues to manufacture a line of good quality expandable batons made from 4140 steel. These batons range from the covert carry 13-inch Airweight at only 6.4 ounces, to the 26-inch Friction Loc Baton weighing in at 21 ounces. www.asp-usa.com
Monadnock Lifetime Products Inc. (Safariland) manufactures a line of Auto-Lock and Friction-Lock expandable batons made from 4130 steel tubing in either black chrome or corrosion-resistant electroless nickel in sizes from 16 inches, 14 ounces, to 26 inches, 20 ounces. www.safariland.com
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Design—Select a baton that ergonomically fits your hand and has a good handle that will accommodate your grip under a variety of adverse conditions such as when wet with water, sweat, and/or blood.
Straight Stick—the easiest of batons to select. Get a baton made from heavy, hard wood.
Accessing and Holstering—Make sure that your baton can be easily accessed from its holster, expanded, and then compressed and re-holstered easily with your gun or support hand. Repeatedly test accessing, expanding, compressing, and re-holstering with one hand.
Holsters—make sure that the baton manufacturer also provides a solid, heavy-duty holster that firmly holds the baton in place when compressed and when expanded. Look for holsters that have a canting mechanism to allow for your baton to be canted at an angle in case you want that option.
Utility—Check to see if the expandable baton you are considering has accessories like caps that allow for glass breaking, lighting, etc. I like my batons clean. However, I have added a glass breaking cap that I have used successfully, where other cops failed to breach car windows by simply striking them.
Weight—Remember that force = mass x acceleration squared. This means that baton weight and swing = kinetic energy = more power to targeted areas. Would you rather hit someone once or twice; or several times to get the same result?
Just ask the cops who struck Rodney King 58 times with their batons, if they wish they had been able to hit him just once or twice to gain compliance. Numerous unnecessary baton strikes, even when justified, rarely look good on social media, body cameras, or at the prosecutor’s office.
Warranty—your expandable baton is going to be with you for a long time. It’s going to get banged up and tossed around, a lot. Cops are rough on gear. Look for a quality product that has a lifetime replacement guarantee.
USING THE BATON
If you want to be safer and more effective in overcoming threatening or violent unarmed resistance, you had better invest in training with your baton. Most cops who wield their batons pull up short when they feel contact. Big mistake. You need to both commit and follow through with your baton strikes to be effective. Think of your baton as a Samurai sword and swing the baton as if you are slicing through your target with a sword.
Be honest, practical, and real about using baton force. It’s not pretty. In fact, it is violent.
But if you do it right, it’s highly effective and will abruptly end what could be a prolonged fight leading to potentially deadly consequences for you or the subject. What we are seeking is controlled violence because we are not violent people like our adversaries are. We are professional, peaceful warriors.
In summary, I encourage all street cops to get smarter about your defensive force options. Seriously revisit your thinking about carrying your baton. You have no better close-in, less-lethal defensive and controlling weapon on your duty belt than your baton.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
Ron enjoys hearing from his readers – EMAIL
Dr. Martinelli’s best-selling book, “The Truth Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement and the War on Police” is available on his forensic site at: www.drronmartinelli.com.
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