Police Impact Weapons: A Foundation for Proper Selection

By Borrello, Andrew | Law & Order, August 1999 | Go to article overview

Police Impact Weapons: A Foundation for Proper Selection


Borrello, Andrew, Law & Order


Law enforcement agencies provide for sworn officers to carry and utilize impact weapons. Although individual philosophies may differ, impact weapons are generally considered intermediate weapons and are commonly referred to as less-than-- lethal.

The value of impact weapons for police use is unquestioned. They have proven their considerable worth through their substantial longevity and the potential to save an officer's life.

Police administrators, trainers, and even at times city attorneys, continually re-evaluate impact weapons to ensure that their agency is best served by their selections. These are difficult choices for there are a number of quality-made and high-tech impact weapons to choose from, and manufacturers continue to improve and add to their product line every year.

The research, acceptance and implementation of an impact weapon can be an involved and drawn-out process, however, this important task can be simplified by understanding the foundation for proper selection.

WEAPON SELECTION

For many years police officers simply carried straight wood batons commonly referred to as "billy clubs" or "night sticks." Along with this weapon, many officers carried a sap or blackjack (lead bar encased in hard leather) used for close-quarter impact strikes.

In 1974, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department field-tested the Monadnock PR-24 Side Handle Baton, the first serious deviation from the common nightstick. U.S. agencies widely adopted the side handle baton as their primary issued impact weapon. Police forces around the world have followed suit but at a slower pace.

Recently there has been a subtle shift away from the side handle baton which requires extensive training. A number of agencies have returned to the familiar and reliable straight wood baton, while others are considering the benefits of modern technology. The expandable baton has exploded in law enforcement usage in the U.S. and abroad.

Several manufacturers offer a full line of expandable friction lock batons. Additionally, Monadnock has introduced an expandable positive lock straight baton that has the advantages of a straight wood baton, but can be comfortably carried on the belt while in a collapsed position,

Other quality impact weapons currently used but not widely accepted in mainstream national law enforcement includes the Rapid Rotation Baton, the Handler 12 and the Orcutt Police Nunchaku (OPN-II). While not recommended for general use, various batons are manufactured with built-in flashlights, chemical aerosols, ballistic projectiles and electronic stun devices.

The selection of an impact weapon should be based on simple and logical criteria. While batons should be professionally designed, the look of a baton is of minimal importance. Skeptics of impact weapons who proclaim that the appearance of certain impact weapons are offensive to the public or portray an overly aggressive image need to understand the weapons fundamental function. Cosmetic appeal has no place in the evaluation of police impact weapons. Impact weapons must be durable, effective, court defensible, and firmly supported by the manufacturer with formal training programs.

While the criteria for selecting an impact weapon may be extensive, certain elements must be considered and should be fundamentally unique to each agency. Monadnock Lifetime Products, the world's largest manufacturer of police impact weapons, maintains as its motto, "To Protect and Restrain." This description of what a baton is used for is both valid and accurate.

However, fundamentally, a police impact weapon, by design, has a primary function: striking specific target areas of a violent and resisting offender to stop an attack and gain control by causing dysfunction or pain. With this straightforward assessment, the first principle for selection consideration must be effectiveness.

The effectiveness of an impact weapon is paramount. …

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