Why are some California police now using nunchucks?

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

As use of force debate rages, Northern California town equips officers with nunchucks.

In what could be a response to changing views regarding police use of force, communities across the country have been seeking non-lethal alternatives that allows police to subdue and detain a suspect without causing injury. An ancient martial arts weapon will arrive on the streets of a small California town, in the hands of police officers adopting the way of the paddy wagon – to protect and serve with nunchakus in hand.

Cops in a northern California town are to be equipped with nunchucks — the weapon mastered by Bruce Lee — in order to “more compassionately gain compliance” from suspects. Perceptions of police and their tactics have changed considerably in recent months, after Michael Brown and Freddie Gray died following interactions with local police. The police department in Anderson, north of Sacramento, announced this week that it plans to equip and train its force of 20 officers with the weapon, also called nunchuks, as a new means to detain uncooperative suspects while “limiting injuries”. “They work really good as an impact weapon, but we try to emphasis [sic] a control tool over impact,” Sergeant Casey Day told local KRCR news.

— A rural Northern California police department wanted a versatile tool to take down suspects while limiting injuries to officers and the people they detained. He added that the specialized nunchaku, which has nylon rather than metal links, lets police pacify suspects by wrapping them up, rather than simply acting as a tool to land and block blows, like a baton. “The nunchaku can be deployed to more compassionately gain compliance from a suspect through pain application [as] opposed to striking,” Chief Michael Johnson told NBC News. Johnson said that he hoped the careful application of the nunchuks could “offset some of the more aggressive perceptions the public has about police intervention”, an allusion to the rising outrage over instances of excessive force by police. Anderson Police officers won’t be required to use the weapon, often made of two sticks or bars tethered together and popularized by martial arts film star Bruce Lee and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.

International law, as codified by the United Nations, stipulates that officers can only use deadly force when either they, or bystanders, face an immediate threat of death or serious physical harm, and only then as a last resort, al Jazeera reports. Despite their simple design, they present a fearsome weapon that an be used to “whack, stab, choke, or strangle as well as pinch and crush limbs,” according to the Web site Real Self-Defense. The department of 20 sworn officers about 200 miles north of San Francisco joined several other U.S. law enforcement agencies that use nunchucks as “less than lethal” weapons 20 years after their popularity peaked. Orcutt said he came to the nunchaku in the late 1970s, when, inspired by kung fu movies, he got his black belt while going to school for law enforcement. “It was a struggle: you’d have one guy pulling one arm one way, one guy pulling the other, it would all end up on the ground, eventually with the guy cuffed and everyone would have scrapes and bruises and maybe a more serious injury.” In the early 1990s San Diego police briefly adopted his training and nunchakus, and Denver police still teach use of the weapon. The nunchucks police will use are made of hard plastic connected by a nylon cord designed to wrap around a suspect’s wrist or ankles, the paper reports.

The report recommended sweeping reform, and in states that lack clear laws on lethal force, entirely new regulation. “It gives us the ability to control a suspect instead of striking them,” Sgt. On the website of the nunchakus’ manufacturer, Orcutt Police Defensive Systems Inc., the restraint technique shows an officer using the nunchakus to grip the ankle of a man who is kicking his foot toward the officer’s face.

The martial arts sticks are being reintroduced to police departments throughout California – Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego being among the first cities to pilot such a program – after a long hiatus. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a similar lawsuit by San Diego abortion protesters, but departments were beginning to embrace high-technology, nonlethal gadgets by then — or returned to the trusty police baton — to control crowds and suspects without using guns. Anderson police will be far from the first department to use nunchucks, Greg Meyer, a use-of-force expert and onetime Los Angeles Police Department training captain, told the Times. In 1991 the weapons were used at an anti-abortion rally in Los Angeles, prompting federal lawsuits, and the LAPD agreed to stop using them before the cases were eventually settled. The weapons are banned in New York, and current supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayor, when she was a federal judge, upheld the law that prohibits them.

He got a patent for his version of the ancient Japanese weapon in 1984 and persuaded the chief of Colorado’s Thornton Police Department, where he served, to formally adopt it.

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