Responding to Police Use of Force Misinformation

A few months ago, I read the article: What Ever Happened to the Police Baton? The author contends it is unreasonable for police officer’s to use lethal force against suspects armed with knives. Instead he feels when faced with a knife wielding suspect, law enforcement should instead attempt to subdue the suspect using nothing more than a baton. This is something I have a serious problem with and wrote a detailed reply to the post and copied it here:

“Law enforcement no longer uses batons to fend off a knife attack, because it places the officer’s life in jeopardy needlessly and DOESN’T WORK. You should pad up and actually try it some time. I have and can assure you that you will get the crap stabbed out of you. There is a reason law enforcement training has evolved to what it is over the years. This isn’t the middle ages with cops and knife wielding suspects out having knife / stick fights in the streets.

“Basically you’re saying the police should be stabbed to death rather than be allowed to defend themselves with lethal force. Of course the goal is always to take the suspect into custody using the minimum amount of force necessary. In a perfect world every interaction with a hostile suspect would be done by multiple officers with a variety of force options available to include firearms, beanbag shotgun, Taser and just about any other tool available.

“In reality this doesn’t happen. An officer / deputy is often forced to make a decision in a split second without a soul around to assist. When alone and faced with a knife wielding suspect only an idiot or some sort of impossibly trained human weapon would choose to dance around and try to knock away a deadly weapon with a stick. It isn’t the 1960’s anymore and the training has changed accordingly.

“Another problem with your argument is training. As a defensive tactics instructor, I can tell you it is a STRUGGLE to even get the minimum amount of training every year that we do. Most agencies out there are making do with less and less and doing more and more. Nowhere is this more apparent than training. Most agencies that even have a defensive tactics program allot 8 hours of defensive tactics training a YEAR. It would be a bloodbath… On the officer’s part to try to take on a knife wielding suspect with a baton especially with the unfortunate level of training most departments provide every year.

“You also bring up how corrections can take on a suspect wielding a knife with only a mattress. This is like comparing apples and a bus. Every aspect other than the knife is different. What you are talking about is a cell entry. A corrections cell entry is done in a controlled environment with the benefits of at least FIVE officers as well as time and planning. Each officer is assigned a limb and there is plenty of time for everyone to know exactly what their job is. A mattress is also rarely used. Most agencies have gone with the high speed shock shield. The suspect is still pinned with it along with the added benefit of causing a bit of discomfort when they’re hit with the electricity. I have worked corrections and patrol and have seen inmates who eat cans of OC like Tabasco sauce, turn around and cuff right up the second they see the shield.

“While I HAVE been involved in several situations with a suspect armed with a knife, I have only been involved in one incident where we were able to bring numerous tools to bear (I shot him with the beanbag shotgun). Most situations outside corrections involve an officer either alone or without alternate tools and absolutely no time to plan in any way.

“If an officer in my agency chose to try to stick fight a suspect armed with a knife (if he survived), he would at least receive a major ass chewing and at worst possibly face disciplinary action. It is articles like this that aren’t based on anything resembling the real world or the realities of actual physical violence that is responsible for so much misinformation out there and helps fuel the anti police sentiment.

“What we should instead be focusing on is the REAL problem. There isn’t a police brutality problem… There is an IGNORANCE problem. The American people are ignorant about the realities of use of force laws as well as what their rights truly are. In the absence of real information people turn to jailhouse lawyers or imaginary Facebook experts. We should literally be teaching classes to high school kids letting them know what will happen when they escalate a situation. This is America… They have a right to disagree, but the proper place to do so is in court afterwards. Compliance will NEVER result in force being used.”

While I respect the conversation about police use of force, I feel it is irresponsible to spout of misinformation that continues to further the divide between law enforcement and the public. As criminal justice professionals, it is our obligation to enlighten the public about the realities of police work, especially as it relates to use of force.

Originally published at So you wanna be a cop?.