Howard to approve longer police baton: Home Secretary urges more effective protection

THE Home Secretary is expected to give the go-ahead today for the Metropolitan Police to use an extended baton to replace the traditional police truncheon. Michael Howard will be given a demonstration of the use of the extended baton and the more controversial side-handed baton at the Home Office.

Mr Howard emphasised in the BBC Television Breakfast with Frost programme that he wanted to protect the police from violent attacks, one of the causes of the growth in numbers seeking early retirement.

'I want to see that the police have all the equipment they need. We will see if it would be sensible to have some trials of new kinds of baton which would enable the police to protect themselves more effectively.

'I am thinking in particular of women police officers. We ask the police to risk their lives for us every day when they go out on the streets of this country. I want to make sure they are effectively protected.'

Kenneth Clarke, his predecessor, upset the police with threats of sweeping reforms. Mr Howard's readiness to respond to the demands of the police will enhance his reputation with Tory right-wingers. But like Mr Clarke, he is wary of allowing the use of the US-style side- handed baton, which cannot be concealed and would present a more aggressive appearance.

Sir Norman Fowler, the party chairman, wants law and order to help to sharpen the Tories' appeal with its traditional voters. Mr Howard will have three main pieces of legislation in the next session: Sunday trading reform; a Police Bill; and a Criminal Justice Bill, including powers to send young offenders to detention centres.

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