Police to test longer batons

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OPERATIONAL trials on two new types of longer batons are to go ahead in several police forces, chief constables said yesterday, writes Terry Kirby.

The trials follow furore among police over a ban by Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, on testing the American-style long- side handled baton, the PR24, because of its potential damage to the image of the service.

John Burrow, Chief Constable of Essex and president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said trials of the 21-inch ASP extending baton and the 20.5 inch baton introduced in Dorset last month will run in about six forces.

The ASP is made of gunmetal and other alloys and extends from about 7 to 21 inches in three sections with a flick of the wrist. It collapses only when struck against a hard surface. Although police in Avon and Somerset were lobbying strongly for the trial of the baton, they hesistated because of a report that it could inflict severe damage with a blow to the head - one of the objections to the PR24.

The Dorset baton, a shorter version of the PR24 without the side handle, was developed by the force and introduced in a move which appeared designed to pre- empt Home Office objections. However, the Home Office has made it clear that chief constables can test and use a variety of different equipment and that the PR24 was a special case.

New training packages to improve police interview techniques with suspects and witnesses are being introduced nationally at the end of this month, the association said.