The baton is perhaps the iconic police weapon, used as a symbol of authority, a defensive tool and the most basic offensive armament available to police throughout policing history.
Most broadly defined as a blunt force weapon, the classic truncheon has many variations, such as the expandable baton, “tonfa,” side-handle baton, or lathi, as well as innumerable objects with the potential to be used as clubs or sticks.
Batons are generally constructed out of wood, rubber, PVC or metal alloys, and function through blunt trauma, with the level of injury dependent on a number of factors.
Mechanism of action
Batons are typically classified as defensive weapons, and a variety of blocking or parrying techniques can be used. They are also offensive impact weapons, functioning by transferring kinetic energy to a person to produce pain and temporary motor dysfunction.
They are typically used in this capacity to strike, by swinging the baton with one or two hands against a targeted body part, often with much more force, and from a greater distance, than is possible with hands alone.
In protests, batons are frequently employed with a two-handed grip, with both hands grasping opposite ends of the baton. The baton can be used to shove and strike with the butt end. Batons wielded in this manner can also be used for joint locks or chokeholds, and can be used to apply directed pressure to parts of the body as a pain compliance technique.
Batons are also offensive impact weapons, functioning by transferring kinetic energy to a person to produce pain and temporary motor dysfunction.
Blunt force trauma of any kind can produce results ranging from bruises to life-threatening injuries. Contusions (bruising) are most frequent, and are caused by ruptured capillaries under the surface of the skin. Abrasions or lacerations from the force of the weapon, or severing of the skin, can result in external bleeding.
The force of the strike can cause internal injuries as well – including bone fractures, internal bleeding and ruptured organs as well as, potentially, death. Batons used for chokeholds or joint locks can cause strangulation injuries and joint or neck trauma.
Perhaps uniquely among the less-lethal weapons described in this report, police batons have been frequently used as instruments of sexual assault in the context of protests. Protesters in France, Chile, Belarus and the United States have recently alleged sexual assault – occasionally captured on video – at the hands of police with batons.