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Hello.  Thank you for having me.  I am a serving Police officer in SE England and I am currently working on a book about the development and perceptions of British policing.  It is purely for my own entertainment, not official in any way, and not intended to be an academic study; however I do intend it to be well researched and insightful without, hopefully, being horribly boring.  

Essentially I am using the truncheon, one of the two world-wide symbols of British policing, as the spine of my account. At the moment this begins with the predecessors of Peel's New Police through to the mid 1990's when suddenly the Police jumped from woolly pully jumpers and 15½" truncheons to body armour & PR-24's.  I have been fortunate to speak to several people who were closely involved in this radical change to the Police but it looks like there are a lot of experts on this forum and I would be grateful for any assistance individuals here could offer.  I have also been working through both published sources and archives whilst trying to impose a structure but again, would be grateful for people's thoughts and opinions.

I'll just throw out a few questions initially with others to follow if I may.

Firstly, truncheons were made from a variety of hardwoods as we know.  However, mention is made of Police truncheons being made from the Malaysian latex gutta-percha in the mid nineteenth century.  Does anyone have any information as to why this was introduced, how widespread such truncheons were and why they fell into disuse?  Does anyone in fact own such a truncheon?

Secondly, truncheons were, on occasion, unofficially augmented with lead.  As an unofficial and illegal practice, there are of course no official figures as to how widespread this practice was, though there is some anecdotal evidence.  However, for those who collect Police truncheons, how frequently do you come across lead plugged truncheons?

Thirdly, does anyone have any information as to when warrant cards were first introduced and by which forces?

Finally, does anyone have any information as to how the Glasgow and Edinburgh forces which produced the arrival of the Met in 1829 were equipped?

Any information, gratefully received.

Dave

 

 

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8 hours ago, Kvetch said:

Secondly, truncheons were, on occasion, unofficially augmented with lead.

Hi Kvetch,

Welcome to forum. The above is a  bold statement, I have been collecting for over 50 years and never ever seen evidence of such a practice in collecting circles or operationally (In one of the toughest areas of Policing) although I have heard criminal elements boasting of such items being used on them .   I stand to be corrected but would vouchsafe that this idea is stuff of nonsense  and an insult to the professional Police officer of the past.

I can't think of a more silly idea than a Police officer spending time drilling a Baton, filling it with hot lead/ or bar and then be willing to have such a heavy item  dangle from his waist for a full police shift.

An Urban Myth in my humble opinion and purely anecdotal

Regards

Peter

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to the GMIC, Kvetch!  I am an aspiring author as well, though not anything to do with policing, and am confident that you'll find some useful contacts and information here.  Sadly, Mervyn Mitton, one of the most helpful and knowledgeable of our 'police friends' is no longer with us, but there are several others, I know, who will likely chime in.

Good luck with the research!

Peter

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Thank you 1st Peter & 2nd Peter.   I have been reading Mr Mitton's posts and even as a layman, they are very thought-provoking.

Could I begin again and stress that I am here to learn and draw upon everyone's experiences.   I certainly don't wish to begin by upsetting anyone.  I don't have an anti-Police bias, being 5-0 myself (honest).

In addition, I hope that my question about filled truncheons is not the only one anyone looks at.

I should make it clear that I have never carried a truncheon; I am came in as PR-24's were being withdrawn.  I am therefore reliant on speaking to people who carried one and from written sources, which are unlikely to address a practice, which, if it occurred at all, would been done covertly.  It is also obvious that even if what appears to be a lead-filled former Police truncheon does turn up in someone's collection, then who is to say that the filling did not occur post Police service. 

However ...

I still think the question about filled truncheons is worth exploring. 

My thinking around the subject is this (apologies, it's a bit lengthy).

1.  I don't think it is in doubt that impact weapons have, on occasion, been lead filled.  

2.  I don't think it is in doubt that British police officers have, on occasion, chosen to ignore rules and guidelines; "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone".

3.  I fully appreciate that just because some old lag goes round telling everyone that the only reason the Old Bill bested him was because they were using lead filled truncheons doesn't make it a fact.  But without getting too post Modernist, I am interested in perceptions also.  And there is or was a widespread perception that the police in Britain have used lead filled truncheons - allegations of this nature are documented during the Miners' Strike for example.  Again, I stress that merely because this is a widespread belief, it doesn't make it true.  

4.  However, the sense I have, from speaking to those who carried a truncheon, is that it was not considered to be an effective piece of kit. Certainly the Police Federation did not campaign for it to be replaced because it was just too effective as a means of self-defence.  If it was the only tool in the tool box other than your fists, the temptation exists to augment it.

5. A loaded truncheon does not seem to be a vast burden.  The standard truncheon weighed about 15 ounces.  The baton I'm issued weighs about 22 ounces.  The issue PR-24 weighed between 22 and 29 ounces, depending on model.  An 8 ounce padlock, which I will use to represent a lead load, would do a horrifying amount of damage if used independently as a weapon; a "lock in a sock".  I'm not aware that the issue baton registers a lot of complaints with colleagues due to being hugely heavy; I don't find it so.  However, the fact remains that officers don't like to use their batons.   The confidence isn't there.  Even the current, heavier, expandable batons are considered ineffective, hence officers rely on PAVA spray and, for those who have it, Taser.  Where I work, the safety trainers are pushing for the introduction of heavier batons.  Recognising that not everyone needs a heavier baton, the proposal was (as last I heard) that we go back to the previous Three Bears system of baton issue.  You could have long, medium or short, corresponding to heavy, medium or light (just as truncheons used to be standard, CID or female).  It was pointed out that tests on the medium showed that it exceeded the current model in terms of striking power.  It was pretty evident in the PPE recertification that I attended, where they demonstrated the new models, that most officers wanted to go large.

6.  The most commonly quoted example of officers allegedly using lead filled truncheons is the death of Blair Peach in 1979 from a skull fracture.  There is a great deal of what, can charitably called, misinformation around this.  Whatever object struck the blow which killed Mr Peach, it seems it was not a lead filled truncheon - this was ruled out in the PM (or at least deemed "most unlikely").  However, the actual implement used was likely a very weighty instrument without a hard edge.  It does not seem to be in dispute that Peach died due to be struck by a Police officer using some sort of implement, possibly a radio in a leather case. My point is that the seemingly exhaustive Met Police investigation thereafter demonstrated that the likely suspects, then assigned to the Special Patrol Group, were a) carrying unauthorised truncheons on the day and b) one had a lead filled cosh in  his locker (albeit established not to be the weapon used to strike Peach).  A number of other unauthorised weapons were also recovered.  What I am driving at is that it seems most unlikely that this was he first time in  history a British officer used an unauthorised impact weapon on an individual.  Mr Peach had an unusually thin skull (as stated in the PM) which was a contributory factor in  his death. And then, due to the racial and political overtones of this incident, this resulted in a large-scale investigation which found that officers in that serial were not using standard truncheons.  Which brings me to:

7.  Production of appointments.  An officer was required to display his appointments, including his truncheon, at the beginning of his shift, to his supervisor.  This was a long-standing practice but not one which continues to the present day.  Officers don't have to produce their batons for examination anymore (which all sounds a little Carry On).  Why did this practice last so long? The most obvious is to ensure that the officer hasn't forgotten or lost the items he is supposed to have with him on duty.  However, any occasion  on  which an officer actually employed his truncheon necessitated a supervisor examining said truncheon.   Officers are not children and we can assume that if if a truncheon was split or broken due to usage, this would be identified by the relevant officer so that he could get a new one.  Surely at least part of the reason for this practice was because officers DID modify truncheons.

Any road, sorry about the length.

Your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

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Hello Dave,

I agree with Peter on the issue of the urban legend of "weighted" truncheons. A number of years ago, here on the forum, there was a proposed competition to produce a lead weighted truncheon using only hand tools. It was not too well received and I think I was the only one to complete the assignment.  I was in contact with Mervyn through Skype quite frequently back then and we talked about the likelihood of such items being used in the UK and it was his opinion that this was never the case. 

Here in Canada the Ontario Provincial Police carried a weighted leather "sap"  in the 1960s (?) but this was an issued item and not a modification of an existing piece of equipment. The sap was around 6 to 8 inches in length and fell out of use quite quickly, if memory serves me correctly. 

Good luck with the book.

Regards

Brian

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Posted (edited)

My only direct knowledge of these questions is my recollections of, as a teenager, handling the 'cosh' issued to an Ontario Provincial Policeman, the elder brother of my best friend.  It was, as Brian says, short - 6-8 inches sounds right - and consisted of a leather tube filled with lead shot.  Said OPP officer was eventually transferred to a popular beach resort which at the time was rather notorious for dust-ups between bikers and others.  The friend and I were working in an Air force mess with pool tables and the PC asked if we could find him a broken pool cue to saw off and carry in his cruiser, as the cosh was too short to use effectively against bats and bike chains.  I don't recall whether or not we found one, but the memory is vivid to this day.  Nor do I believe that pool cues were ever authorized equipment for any police force in Canada [or the UK].

With all due respect to Dellibob, the notion that the use if unauthorized weapons or tactics is "  this idea is stuff of nonsense  and an insult to the professional Police officer of the past." is itself naive in the extreme.  I know and respect many police officers.  I also read daily and often believe current accounts of POs breaking the law in their use of force, including the use of illegal and unauthorized equipment, and actually 'fitting up'  people for crimes they didn't commit, based on racial prejudice, previous encounters with the citizen or the 'citizen's 'bad attitude.'  Sadly, I also know a number of serving police officers who fit the classic definition of what some forces refer to as 'street monsters': Pos who police by intimidation and violence.  I am not a police historian but I find it unlikely in the extreme that such men did not exist, and on some forces thrive, in the past.

Did UK police use weighted batons?  No idea.  But to dismiss the notion as an insult to policemen is itself an insult to good history.  Keep looking.  No one will be happier than I, except perhaps Delibob, if you find no examples, but keep looking!

 

Edited by peter monahan

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Posted (edited)

I was an English bobby for thirty-five years and served in four different police forces. During my service I saw no evidence of "weighted" truncheons being used, officially or otherwise. The first part of my service was in a very turbulent and often violent city. That said, truncheons were seldom drawn let alone used. So, (like it or not) I support what delibob says. I'm perhaps fortunate that I don't live in Canada!

Dave.

Edited by Dave Wilkinson

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Posted (edited)

Greetings Kvetch!

As to the leaded truncheon debate, I have nothing to add, except that I have seen, posted on various auction sites, truncheons that purportedly fit that description. I've never had a close-up encounter, even though I grew up in a sleepy little hamlet on the Detroit River, where such myths spring to life at night.

Gutta percha, when it was introduced to the industrial world, sparked the imagination of many, and was tested in various products. I Know that truncheons, at least in the U.K., had to be within certain parameters  concerning length, diameter, as well as weight. Truncheons made from the stuff, and constructed in adherence to those constraints, could be possible. As to its utility, I can only say that Smith & Wesson used Gutta percha for some models of their revolver stocks between 1896 and the 1920s. They seemed to pass all of the tests, but over time. when exposed to the elements, they patinated into a dirty brown colour, then into a sickly brownish-green. The stocks on the gun on the right appear dirty. they are not. That's just how the color changes over time. Whether this mattered to anybody back then is anybody's guess. I have heard, however, that some Chief Constables, or other administrators, were very keen on uniformity in all of its applications.

Best of luck on your research. 

Mike.

 

 

IMG_2208.JPG

Edited by Mike McLellan

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Posted (edited)

I can confirm that the Metropolitan Toronto Police also used lead-filled coshes like the O.P.P. I remember an officer who visited my Elementary School showing us his.  My wife's uncle, who spent 30 years with the Force could have been an excellent source, but he passed away 12 years ago.

Michael

Edited by Michael Johnson

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Thank you one and all.  I hope others weigh in, especially as regards the other questions (and thanks for the thoughts on gutta percha).  I'm on my hols so I'll catch up later if I may.

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I have 4 lead weighted in my collection including one where the weight is loose in a hole within the truncheon and moves when it is used. more common are the ones with a metal band usually brass around the top  where engraving was done. eg crown and WR GR Or VR. But none of these are to a police force but in some cases to a town etc.  Ian

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Hello All,

Slightly off topic (or at least geographically distant) is the baton experience in Western Australia Police. On joining in 1973 we were presented with a dinky little rubber baton. It had a tightly wound steel spring at its centre, covered with a slightly flexible firm rubber outer- 14 inches long.

This was particularly useless as a tool to subdue an angry man as it just didn't have the reach to connect from a safe distance. You virtually had to be wrestling with the crook before you could use it. 

It did have the novelty value of being able to be thrown down onto the footpath in front of lonely night beat constable, whereupon it would, if thrown just right, bounce up in front of him- to be caught in the hand ready for the next bounce.

This was great fun until some imperfection in the footpath cause it to bounce back- not directly in front of the bored constable but sideways into a window. A surprising number of 'damage' incidents were detected and reported by vigilant police on the night beat!!

The second issued baton was I think the best- a long spun aluminium beauty- it had a beautifully knurled handle, and was about 26 inches long. It looked impressive and that alone made it very effective as a control tool . It also had great 'reach' when it had to be used.

Lastly we got the ASP- an extending baton of 24 inches which most coppers will know. It was light and easily carried when closed and had reasonable reach when used. Many of us felt it had the potential to cause excessive injury because it was thin, hard steel and so were reluctant to use it unless absolutely necessary. Couple of photos attached- don't have one of the aluminium model.

ASP baton.jpg

Rubber baton.jpg

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 Production of appointments.  An officer was required to display his appointments, including his truncheon, at the beginning of his shift, to his supervisor.  This was a long-standing practice but not one which continues to the present day.

Police forces were organized on para-military lines. Officers saluted their superiors, boots were polished, faces shaved and, naturally enough, the shift would begin with an army-style parade.

 

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On 17/08/2019 at 17:55, NickLangley said:

 Police forces were organized on para-military lines. Officers saluted their superiors, boots were polished, faces shaved and, naturally enough, the shift would begin with an army-style parade.

Absolutely.  This was an era when an officer could face censure for coming to the front door of his own home (albeit Police provided) without a tie.  But this was not a point I made in isolation ...

If anyone, incidentally, has any information about the other questions I raised, I would be very grateful.  Namely ...

Does anyone have any information about gutta-percha truncheons

Does anyone have any information as to when warrant cards were first introduced and by which forces?

How were the Glasgow and Edinburgh forces, which preceded the arrival of the Met in 1829, equipped?

Also, dpk, loved the story about the bouncy baton.

 

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