Where have all the batons gone?
The 21st century has ushered in a new phase of non-lethal technology. As the law enforcement industry responds to public sentiment, there is renewed interest in all types of weapons that promote control without killing. From aerosol defense sprays, electrical devices, laser demobilization lights, specialty impact munitions and new batons; government and business leaders are all enthusiastically seeking the magic bullet that works fast, works well, is portable and is non-lethal. Over the last few decades the police duty belt has grown from having simply a portable radio and firearm to also include Aerosol Units, Electrical Devices, Flashlight, Handcuffs, Impact Weapons, Pager, Cell Phone and Safety Latex Gloves. Along with the fact that cops are carrying more police equipment, today's cops are also more fitness-minded and are slimmer and trimmer than officers of the past, resulting in less belt space to carry all of their new-fangled equipment. This dilemma has led to a redesign of old items, taking on new shapes and new carry systems sometimes smaller, sleeker or intentionally designed for strategic placement on the belt.
One of the most noticeable exclusions from the belt of most cops is the long, solid, dangling police baton which was at one time a requisite characteristic of the police image; having helped to shape the look of law enforcement since the early 1800's. The dangling baton had become so synonymous with the police uniform and so recognizable that even a dark silhouette or caricature could instantly be identified as a police officer absent of any other features other than the baton. So why then has the dangling baton, a veritable icon in law enforcement virtually disappeared among the profession? Where have all of the batons gone, and why were they excluded or replaced?
The first documented police baton was called a truncheon, a small wooden police baton carried in the United Kingdom since the early 1800's. It was manufactured as a striking tool to be used primarily against resistant British subjects who were noted in those days to have a strong penchant for 'various forms of revelry and drunken debauchery'. It was London in the nineteenth century; a hard core urban environment and Constables who were charged with suppressing disorderly conduct in the wild streets of this city would often deploy their small wooden clubs to usher along crowds and to reinforce their orders and commands.
The police truncheon was effective as a controlling device and soon became a signature product of law enforcement, spreading to other nations in various forms, made in different lengths, diameters and materials, but nonetheless still used the same way for nearly two hundred years.
It wasn't until the early 1970s when the first significant change in police batons was accepted into the genre of professional policing. Designed by Lon Anderson and brought to market by the Monadnock Corporation, the PR-24, as it was later called, was an embodiment of the original straight truncheon, but modified with a side handle affixed perpendicular to the main body to allow it to be utilized in a clever new way. This baton's design came on the heels of the US Civil rights movement, when police batons had come under sharp criticism by an aggravated public flooded by imagery of minorities being 'clubbed' and 'beaten' by America's tough enforcers. Police enforcement became synonymous with police brutality and the country was in the mood for radical reform. As blame was cast, scapegoats quickly surfaced and the police baton, a historically offensive weapon by most accounts became the 'bad boy' tool of evil oppressors. Police Administrators, reacting to the public discourse threatened to abandon the use of batons as a sign of concern and a measure of counter-ambivalence.
Though some agencies did indeed remove batons from their arsenal of weapon choices, most moved to a more moderate approach and seized this new side-handle baton design that was beginning to emerge as a defensive control tool.
The argument for the side handle baton was as clever as the design itself. It was held like a shield, apparently to deflect attack rather than initiate injury. Though it could be spun around on the spindle for striking, it was preferred to be used for leverage-based techniques and control holds. This softer image was precisely what the police industry was hoping for, and when the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department tested and approved the side-handle baton, it wasn't long before the rest of the world followed suit.
An interesting thing then happened, and it lasted for over 20 years. Within the police industry, baton philosophy was taken on a life of its own, with users and trainers slowly dividing themselves on what they thought were important features in the batons they carried. Two distinct camps emerged within the business and strong arguments could be heard at conferences and training sessions about what truly was the best baton for police.
On one end of the spectrum were the advocates of the side-handle baton. This camp argued that the new baton was an advancement over an older, far more antiquated design. "Give a cop a hammer and everyone looks like a nail" was the argument of the neo-professional. They felt that the side-handle baton offered more choices for deployment and could be used for blocking and controlling rather than just striking. Furthermore, the manufacture of this product had developed an intensive training program with researched striking zones, and a tactical approach to using the weapon that was sensible, comprehensible, and defensible.
On the other end, a more conservative approach to baton-use supported the continued use of the solid straight baton. Their argument focused squarely on the need for an offensive tool, which they argued was more important than the politics of appearing strictly defensive. They wanted a baton that hurt when it hit and could be controlled by the user before, during and after a strike. They felt that the side-handle baton was cumbersome when used for striking and was difficult to control on impact. They cared less about positive image because when the fight was on, winning was their only objective. They simply balked at the idea that a baton could be used as a controlling tool, during the time when a baton was actually needed. This of course was when the subject was violent, out of control, and not cooperating. There was no convincing them that the side-handle baton was built for their safety and they viewed it with contempt as simply an appeasement to a general public who had become way too involved in their established safety practices.
Of course, during this time a steady rise in litigation against Police Departments brought with it a new and emerging concept of negligence. Post Tennessee v. Garner police shootings were steadily facing escalating criticism by litigants posing the question, "could you have done something else?" This notion of preclusion called attention to the sad truth that batons, which in some cases might have been deployed, were not, simply because they were so difficult and cumbersome to carry. It was revealed time after time that many cops had abandoned them in their cars, homes, and lockers. Suddenly the effectiveness of a baton's design took a back seat to the real problem of impact weapons. They were in the way and weren't being carried as prescribed by policy. The time was right for change.
In the 1980's Kevin Parsons gave rebirth to the Japanese kebo, a metal, collapsible baton that was deployed in the throughout various parts of Japan decades earlier. This baton had a tapered barrel friction lock design that used the energy of inertia to extend it to full position. When collapsed, it fit snugly into a sheath and allowed police officials to not have to remove it from their belts, which was of particular importance during sitting and riding in patrol cars. This, it was argued, guaranteed that the baton was always present and the accusation that an officer failed to carry all of his equipment as described by policy could be quickly put to rest.
The ASP baton was quickly embraced and just as quickly copied by other manufacturers who wanted in on its sudden popularity. For awhile the affects of this new baton were hypnotic. It was metal, sleek, and thin and made a surreal noise when it was extended. It seemed modern and exciting and many agencies scrambled to get rid of their solid sticks in exchange for these new hollow devices. Collapsible batons quickly became the next baton fashion.
It wasn't long however before questions began to arise regarding this new tool. It seems that though it may have solved the issues of convenience and carry, it brought with it new problems that were not a part of the 'older' baton systems. First, there was the issue of design; even though the new collapsible baton had a new portable feature, when fully extended, it was still just a straight or side-handled baton, limited in application as were its solid predecessors. The biggest problem was that these new collapsible batons were, well…collapsible. Not such an impressive feature when it occurred in the middle of a fight. It also had problems with being metal; for like electricity, metal has a negative image when used directly on a human body; "folks just don't like it". Then, there were plenty of field complaints about the batons failing to work. Complaints ranged from them being ineffective striking devices (due to the hollow design), to problems with them closing during an encounter, to not being able to re-holster them while fully extended. Some experienced that these batons would bend and others complained that they would rust.
Operating below the fault line, in 1996, there was another manufacturer, Roy Bedard with RRB Systems International, located in Tallahassee, FL, who was compiling historical notes about the other batons and set about to redesign a new device which took the major problems of straight, side-handled, and collapsible batons into consideration and eliminated them by creating a new baton system involving a new baton shape and a new baton carry method.
This "Hybrid Baton" combines all of the positive points of the straight, side handle and collapsible batons into one solid non-collapsible design. It allows for the blocking and protection needed against an active attack and promotes striking techniques needed at all distances from various threat zones, to restraining and stabilization tactics, to the transitions of other belt equipment and the proper escalation and de-escalation of force.
The RRB System has taken off throughout the world, being viewed as the new baton to carry, particularly when your life or safety is on the line. It allows an officer the quickest access to the baton over any other impact weapon made in the world today due to its interesting holstering system which places the weapon snugly against the body, and behind the firearm to take advantage of the strong-side bladed stance which all officers are trained to employ. Internationally the RRB is being carried throughout Europe, parts of Canada and Latin America, and has recently emerged in various regions of the United States. It has applications for both police and corrections and The Federal Bureau of Prisons is completing their own pilot program logging outstanding reviews and life saving results.
So as batons have evolved through time and technology we can now answer the question, "Where have all of the batons gone?"
It's clear that they have gone here, rolled into one System of defense - The Rapid Rotation Baton System!
System Description: The RRB - Rapid Rotation Baton is an intermediate defense tool designed for police and prison applications. Designed to be used in a variety of situations, the Rapid Rotation Baton is unique for close-quarter defensive applications and subject control techniques. Blending the striking capabilities of straight batons with the blocking benefits of the side hand baton, the Rapid Rotation Baton is a next generation hybrid of police intermediate tools.
The baton's safety holster allows the RRB to carry upward along the body, rather than dangling along the side. This allows the officer to sit, run, or fight without the RRB encumbering performance.
Description: Kydex shell with all-weather laminate outer material - Molded clamshell design - Concealed safety snap with riveted strap.
- Length: 5.5 inches
- Width: 4.3 inches
- Weight: 5.5 ounces
- Finishes: Plain, Nylon look, Basket Weave, Hi-Gloss - Available in special colors with quantity 'made to order'.
Intermediate Police Weapons
|Rapid Rotation Baton||Solid Straight Baton||Collapsible Straight Baton||Solid Side Handle Baton||Collapsible Side Handle Baton|
- 2 meters
- 2 meters
+ 2 meters
+ 2 meters
|Effective against grips, grabs
and body holds
|Effective in ground fight||x|
|Available certified training programs||x||x||x||x||x|
|Secure Carry System||x|
|Able to be carried while sitting in vehicle||x||x||x|
|Edged weapon defense considerations||x|
|Effective Retention on the belt||x|
|Effective Retention in the hand||x||x||x||x||x|
Explanation of table:
Solid Structure - The weapon is designed with a solid core for greater reliability as a striking tool.
Effective Offense = 2 meters - Weapon allows for powerful strikes at the conventional arms length distance of approximately 2 meters (4-6 feet).
Effective Defense = 2 meters - Weapon allows for effective one arm shielding against strikes at conventional arms length of approximately 2 meters (4-6 feet)
Effective Offense < 2 meters - Weapon allows for powerful jabs and strikes in close quarters at less than arms length. Certified instructional techniques exist for this fighting environment.
Effective Defense < 2 meters - Weapon allows for shielding, gripping and trapping of attack in close quarters at less than arms length. Certified instructional techniques exist for this fighting environment
Effective against grips, grabs and body holds - Weapon can be successfully deployed in body to body contact against a variety of grappling type attacks. Certified instructional techniques exist against these types of attacks
Effective in Ground Fights - Weapon can be drawn and successfully deployed by wearer against a variety of body to body ground attacks. Certified instructional techniques exist against these types of attacks.
Available Certified Training programs - Manufacturer of weapon offers corporate training which is recognized and adopted by at least one sworn law enforcement agency.
Secure Carry System - Manufacturer provides carrier with security features specifically fashioned in the design. Weapon is not able to be taken in one simple movement. Carry system cannot be used to the attacker advantage.
Able to be carried comfortably in vehicle. - Carry method allows wearer to enter a car without removing device from the belt.
Edged weapon defense considerations - Weapon offers considerable protection from edged weapon attacks. Edged Weapon defense system is taught within weapon's certified course.
Effective Retention on belt - Carrier and associated training methods allow for weapon to be retained against subject who grabs it while on the equipment belt.
Effective retention in hand - Manufacturer offers methods to allow for weapon to be retained against subject who grabs it while in the user's hand.
Multi-national use - Weapon is currently being used by sworn law enforcement agencies in more than one country.
Cost Comparison - Based on Manufacturers list price, comparing all five weapons listed. Location where weapons fall along cost curve ($1.00 - $150.00 US). Cost will include weapon and carrier. Training is not considered into cost.