Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News Shorts And Other Business

New Police Baton Goes Lethal

Squall 10, Summer 1995, pg. 7.

In May this year, Brian Douglas became the first person to suffer fatal injuries inflicted by the new US style batons employed by the police.

He was arrested in south London on May 3, for a minor traffic offence and was struck several times on the back of the head. Police claim he was found to be in possession of a lock-knife, some cannabis and a CS gas container, and that a scuffle broke out as they tried to arrest him.

Douglas was kept in a police cell for 15 hours before being taken to St Thomas’s Hospital, where he died on May 8. During his detainment in the police cells he was visited four times by police surgeons, all of whom failed to realise that he had a fractured skull.

The police maintain that there is no evidence to suggest the baton-injury sustained by Brian Douglas was the cause of his death. But the new polycarbon batons recently introduced by the Metropolitan Police have been a major cause of concern and warnings over accidents waiting to happen.

A north London police station recently held a private demonstration of the new batons for local dignitaries. At the demo it was stressed that the batons are “defensive weapons” for dealing with “violent or potentially violent” prisoners. The emphasis was very much on dangerous criminals. Police can choose between a 26 inch hollow baton or a 24 inch solid one. Both are equally effective.

At the meeting, it was explained that there are three phases of baton use.

The first is in a situation of confrontation which has not developed into violence. In such a case the baton is drawn from behind the back and held against the back of the leg where it can’t be seen. This is so an already tense situation is not exacerbated but the baton is ready for use if necessary. The second is to warn off aggressive “prisoners” should they make to attack the police officer. In this case the baton is pointed at the other person at arms length. The police officer shouts “back” while taking a step backwards. The third phase is to use the baton to strike the assailant. According to the police the batons are designed to “cause minimal injury”.

The first target is the upper arm which is struck once and then the officer steps back. If this fails the second target is the upper thigh with similar strike and backward step. If this fails to deter the attack then the next line of defence is to strike the arm and leg in quick succession.

When asked by a member of the audience what happens if somebody ducks, the police instructor admitted that in such a case they have to be careful because it is possible to strike their head.

She also admitted that the force of the baton is such that: “It is quite possible to break somebody’s arm.”

Obviously, something went wrong with the procedure in Brian Douglas’s case and killed him. The disciplined procedures described above also seemed to be little adhered to when police attacked road protesters outside the London Weekend Television Studio in May. (see Nightmare on LWT Street).