Impact weapons are an integral part of the modern law enforcement weaponry. They play a crucial role in the use of force continuum. Most police forces require that officers carry some type of impact weapon while on uniform duty. The baton can end a confrontation fast without excessive injury to the officer or the suspect, it can be used as both an offensive and defensive tool, it can be used to break windows, break the safety glass surrounding fire extinguisher enclosures, or lever open doors to gain entry to vehicles or structures. No other piece of equipment on the duty belt offers this much versatility.
In the 19th century, London police began to carry truncheons about one-foot long called billy clubs. They have been carried by law-enforcement officers all over the world ever since.
Originally, the baton (also called a truncheon, cosh, billystick, billy club, nightstick, sap, blackjack, stick) was simply a wooden club 18–36 inches long. Over time, changes in both design and material have taken place. There are now hundreds of designs that include many different materials. The most popular design for the modern police officer is the metal expandable baton.
Proper training in the use of the baton is essential to its effectiveness. Law enforcement officers are permitted to use the degree of force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish their lawful objectives and to overcome any unlawful resistance. Force beyond this is called excessive force and is often the basis for law suits against police.
Many police use a “force continuum” to guide their actions. The specific progression of force may vary from department to department, but an example of a typical progression would be: