The Boys in Blue have toys to hurt you!
Rigid-link handcuffs replaced the older, chain-linked, restraints, and are characterised by their rigid grip between the two ratchet cuffs. The design is “effective for gaining control over a struggling prisoner, even if only one cuff has been applied”. Standard issue for most UK forces, “removal of the [plastic] grip [covering] offers no advantage to escape, as it is only present to facilitate the comfortable manipulation of the cuffs by the arresting officer”. A double locking facility is activated by depressing a small pin on the back of the cuff, preventing “accidentally or knowingly tightening the cuff once it has been locked, thereby helping to prevent paralysis or other injury”.
Standard issue, either extendable, telescopic or rigid. The use of batons varies across the country, and each force chooses a type which “is best able to fulfil its needs and provide the best protection to officers”. Expandable batons such as the popular ASP model are popular, although the PR-24 Monadnock (a side-handled baton), Monadnock Straight Lock baton and one-piece “Arnold” baton are used by some forces. Batons are offensive weapons, and their use and distribution is heavily restricted by the Criminal Justice Act 1988. These restrictions do not apply “for the purposes of functions carried out on behalf of the Crown”, which includes water bailiffs, immigration officers and police constables.
CS/PAVA Incapacitant Spray
Officers may carry either a CS or PAVA (also known as Captor) incapacitant spray. Their effects are designed to be short-lived and exposure to fresh moving air will normally result in a significant recovery within 15-20 minutes. The CS spray issued by UK police services contains a 5% solution of CS whilst Captor sprays contain a 0.3% solution of PAVA. It should be noted that PAVA is significantly more potent than CS. Such sprays are classified as prohibited weapons under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 and may only be possessed with the authority of the Defence Council or the Scottish Ministers.
Most guns used by UK Police are semi-automatic, their use being dictated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Firearms in service vary between police forces, but include various models made by well-known manufacturers such as Glock, Walther, SIG Sauer, Remington and Heckler & Koch. On the mainland, Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO) and/or Specialist Firearms Officers (likely to be called to sieges and therefore trained to a higher standard than an AFO) attend emergencies where firearms are needed – in Northern Ireland all officers are routinely armed.
Attenuating Energy Projectiles (AEPs), aka ‘Rubber Bullets’
The existing generation of plastic bullets (now referred to as AEPs) has been reported to have killed several demonstrators in the past, yet still proves popular with our police forces – the Home Office supplying them with over £4,400,000 worth since 2007. The projectiles are supplied to the Home Office by the Ministry of Defence.
X26 Taser stun guns
Prohibited weapons under the Firearms Act 1968 – until recently issued only to Authorised Firearms Officers, whose use of them was governed by the same rules of engagement as regular firearms. In November 2008, 30,000 Specially Trained Officers (without previous firearms training) were issued with them. This number has increased rapidly. ACPO has prohibited the use of Tasers on volunteers.
Dog and Horse sections
Specially trained dogs are used for a number of purposes – mainly crowd control, detecting drugs, explosives, chemicals, etc, tracking suspects or missing persons, and sniffing out the odours of decomposing bodies. The use of detection dogs was covered previously in Rupture – you can read my article here.
Airwave communications network
A mobile communications network dedicated for the use of the three emergency services, designed to be both secure and resilient when used for voice and data transmission, and allowing multiple agencies to integrate their communications via a nationwide network (apparently ultimately owned by a Macquarie investment fund). This network is also able to connect to that of London Underground.
Spike strips, aka ‘Stingers”
Strips of 35 to 75mm long metal barbs, designed to puncture the tyres of moving wheeled vehicles. The barbs may be hollow or solid; hollow barbs are intended to become embedded in the tyres, allowing air to escape at a steady pace in an attempt to reduce the risk of a crash.
Cobham Scene Management Barrier Systems
The Cobham SMBS is examined in detail in an earlier article, originally published in Rupture, here.
Helmets, Shin and elbow guards, Acrylic riot shields, Stab vests, Fireproof coveralls
Transparent shields, sometimes used in so-called “shield strikes”, described by one High Court QC as “not a recognised form of reasonable force at all”, and “particularly objectionable”. Police officers use shield strikes “both flat and angled” and using the shield edge. The legality of police using riot shields to land blows on protesters during street demonstrations has repeatedly been called into question, with the retort that, “A shield was part of an officer’s protective equipment, and, if an officer was deployed with a shield, could use it to the extent “that use of force is reasonable and proportionate”.
Powerful enough to cause injury if used incorrectly, a 30 million candlepower ‘Nitesun’ searchlight is capable of lighting an area the size of a football pitch or focusing on a single suspect. Police helicopters are also equipped with thermal imaging equipment (used to direct officers and dog units on the ground and track targets), a ‘SkyShout’ public address system, and a gyroscopically stabilised, broadcast quality, video camera (with additional ‘spotter scope’), which can zoom in on an object several miles away, as well as both recording and transmitting live footage.
I plan to cover this area in more depth as part of a future article.