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Wednesday, December 30, 1998 Published at 06:39 GMT


Police get stick over new batons

The new batons have been in use since 1993

Police forces have been warned not to allow their increasing use of American-style batons to bring in a more aggressive style of policing.

Graham Satchell reports: The PCA wants a return to less heavy-handed policing
The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) says the number of complaints about the use of police batons grew by 10% last year, and the highest number of complaints concerned American-style side-handled batons.

The American-style batons have been in use for the last five years and have begun to replace the traditional 11-inch wooden truncheons - first issued to police in the 19th Century.

A report by the PCA is urging police forces who are adopting American batons to draw up their own training programmes for officers to take account of British policing methods and reduce the risk of "unnecessarily aggressive" behaviour.

[ image: The PCA urged a rethink on police forces' baton use]
The PCA urged a rethink on police forces' baton use
The report also calls on police to stop targeting suspects' knees and shins when using the batons and urges forces to step up refresher training for officers to make sure they know how to use their weapons.

Most complaints in 1997 were linked to the side-handled batons, both the longest and heaviest of the types in use and deployed in 23 forces across England and Wales.

These batons attracted an average of 3.3 complaints per 1,000 officers using them.

John Giffard, Chief Constable of Staffordshire: "Our officers require this level of protection"
But the PCA's report also raises a particular concern about the Asp baton, an expandable wand with a metal tip used in 12 forces. It was introduced from the US with hardly any changes to the training manual.

One consequence was that officers were trained to stand ready to strike with the baton resting on their shoulder, which risked the suspect being unintentionally struck on the head or another dangerous area.

The Asp attracted 2.38 complaints per 1,000 officers, many linked to the metal tip.

'Training reduces complaints'

The equipment receiving fewest complaints was used by only a handful of forces, five using the Casco at 1.9 complaints and four, including the Metropolitan Police, the fixed-length Arnold with 1.78 complaints.

Regular refresher training appeared to be very effective in reducing complaints, the PCA says.

However it points out that Sussex, which uses rigid side-handled batons, has an "exceptionally high" number of complaints, despite carrying out training bimonthly.

Surrey police revised their training and introduced new trainers in 1996. Since then the force has had no baton-related complaints as a result.

Five other forces had no complaints levelled against them over the last year.

The PCA's report also urges police to look again at the parts of the body which were considered to be target areas.

The PCA is particularly concerned that the shin, which could be fractured, is a primary target area and the kneejoint, which could be dislocated or fractured by a baton blow, is a secondary target area.

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