Weapon The move
Concerns over human
rights and the search to
find alternatives to resolve con-
is set to be rolled out to forces in
the UK by Summer 2005.
person has been hit in the head
or thorax area.'
This prompted the introduc-
flict without the need to resort to Background tion of the L21A1 in June 2001,
towards less-lethal firearms has served to push the The use of the original plastic which was a more accurate
move towards effective less- baton round, the L5, known by device and reduced the probabili-
technology such as lethal alternatives in the UK.
The L21A1 baton round is just
the wider public as 'plastic bul-
lets', became a focus in Northern
ty of causing serious or life-
threatening injuries, but it
one such technology. But follow- Ireland, where, following its use remained controversial in
baton rounds, Tasers ing concerns about the damage in public order situations, it was Northern Ireland.
that can be done when it hits associated with a number of A steering group led by the
and slightly more vulnerable areas of the
body, such as the skull, new
deaths, including some children.
Ian Arundale, ACPO lead on
Northern Ireland Office, in consul-
tation with ACPO, carried out
developments, designed to give less-lethal weapons and assistant international research into alter-
more 'out there' officers a safer but just as accu- chief constable of West Mercia natives to the round but found
rate and effective tool in their Constabulary, explains: 'The per- that there were no products avail-
suggestions such as less-lethal kit, have created the
Attenuating Energy Projectile or
ception of some people in
Northern Ireland was these less-
able to rival the baton round in
terms of “effective capability that
AEP for short. lethal weapons were used does not expose officers and the
heating people up in The projectile has been against men, women and chil- public to the greater risk involved
developed following months of dren.' in violent public disorder”.
public order scientific research by bodies such
as the Police Scientific
He explains: 'The problem
was that although the option is Accuracy
Development Board (PSDB) and less-lethal compared to using Although officers are trained to
situations to make the Defence Science and firearms, it has been responsible fire the rounds into the belt-buck-
Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and for a number of deaths when a le area of the body, there have
them move in been instances where the round
has ricoched off a building or floor
and has the potential to hit a per-
America, are son in a vulnerable area.
A Home Office spokesman
increasingly on the said: 'Development continues
and the project is on course to
international police have this projectile
continued on page 38
JANUARY 2005 POLICE - The Voice of the Service 35
ready for operational use by sum- be targeted at individuals, not Mr Arundale states the odds reduces the potential for severe
mer 2005. aimed at crowds in riot situations. when it comes to the numbers of injury to the organs in the chest
'The development of the AEP A typical example would be less lethals on the market: 'Whilst cavity, the face, eyes and brain.
is, in part, a consequence of the an individual who is self-harming there are about 100 less-lethal The idea is to 'neutralise the
Defence Scientific Advisory or a threat to the lives of others. options, ultimately, experts say threat', to incapacitate the per-
Council (DSAC) statement pro- The round could be used in con- only two or three of these things son, rather than injure them
duced in April 2001 in relation to junction with other less-lethal are worthy of consideration.' severely or fatally.
the comparative injury potential alternatives to try to bring about a The DSTL carry out the tests 'If the impact round system is
of the current baton round peaceful resolution. on less-lethal weapons on behalf to work, it must hit the small
(L21A1).' of different bodies such as inde- point of the body to gain pain
According to the statement Research pendent medical advisors and the compliance. It basically feels like
by the Defence Scientific Advisory Paul Davis, secretary of the Ministry of Defence to ensure the someone giving you a punch in
Council: ”Users should be made Federation's operational sub- less-lethal weapons that are used the stomach. It would wind a per-
aware that L21A1 baton rounds committee, has been involved in by police officers have been son if it hits soft tissue like the
can ricochet in some circum- looking at less-lethal alternatives. proved to be effective and as safe stomach. The visceral pain recep-
stances with high energy, and He says: 'Some officers may as possible. tors contained within the
that the presence of obstacles think there are other things out Mr Arundale adds that when abdomen would cause the per-
and of personnel other than the there that are better but there officers use a weapon that has son to change their behaviour.
intended target should form part needs to be an understanding undergone the right scientific and This could, for example, make
of their risk assessment in the that this round has gone through medical tests it gives them a them stop if running from a crime
decision to fire the weapon. A proper tests, whereas some of much greater deal of protection. scene, but not fatally injure
desire for a reduction of the rico- the other things out there could 'They have protection of The them,' said Mr Davis.
chet potential should be stated in be classed as inadequate, even to Manual of Guidance on the Police Mr Arundale adds that the
the research and operational the point of a product being Use of Firearms and a scientifical- round is simply one option, not to
requirements of future kinetic knocked up in somebody's ly evaluated system,' he explains. be viewed as a total solution but
energy weapon systems, and be garage.' The DSTL examine aspects to be used alongside other less-
evaluated experimentally”. This is why there is a push to such as; accuracy, effective range lethal alternatives such as negoti-
The research carried out also put new technology through its and possible impact on vulnera- ation and police dogs.
compared the baton round to the paces. The Defence Scientific ble parts of the body such as the 'There is no magic bullet that
beanbag-type sock round, and Technology Laboratory does skull and chest and different envi- will put a person down, not injure
found the baton round to be more exactly this, carries out rigorous ronments such as freezing tem- them and allow them to get up,
accurate and less likely to cause tests on new technology. It is the peratures. unharmed and uninjured. Used in
injury. reality behind the image of 'Q' in The round has been fired in a conjunction with other tactics, the
'The sock round is 50 per cent James Bond, wandering around in simulated operational environ- round has the potential for the
less accurate than the current and his white lab coat talking Bond ment in Northern Ireland at build- safe resolution.'
future baton round and 50 per through the latest pen gun tech- ings, rubble and doors to examine He adds: 'Officers need to
cent less accurate means there is nology. the potential for ricochet during know the benefits and limitations
more chance of it hitting a vital The new round, the AEP, is tests. of the option. The round should
area of the body,' explains Mr just one of the advancements 'It's basically the shake, rattle not be expected to incapacitate,
Arundale. that has been subjected to the and roll test. This is extremely but combined with other options
The round is particularly accu- rigours of testing. important for officers on the it will give officers a choice to
rate at 20 metres or less, but Mr ground, how will the less-lethal come to a safe, positive resolu-
Arundale emphasises that it is to weapon operate after rolling tion.'
around in the back of a Landover
or whatever. This could be looking
at how effective the baton gun
What are baton
and round are at different tem- rounds and how are
peratures or different environ-
ments,' says Mr Davis.
Chief officers were looking for Baton rounds were introduced
something as effective as the cur- in the 1970s and are available
rent round but less likely to result for use in all UK police forces.
in death or injury if a critical area They have been fired on more
is hit. than 30 occasions in England
The new round has been and Wales, but have not been
designed to be accurate and also fired in Northern Ireland since
has a built in space which will dis- September 2002.
tort on impact if it hits a hard sur- The police ombudsman is
face like the skull to reduce the responsible for monitoring the
potential for serious injury. use of baton rounds in
Northern Ireland and the
Common misconceptions Independent Police Complaints
Research on baton rounds and Commission in England and
how they affect the human body Wales where there is death or
found that the point of aim should serious injury.
be in the belt-buckle area. This
38 POLICE - The Voice of the Service JANUARY 2005