Daniel may end use of batons

Collapsible device likely to replace stick, jujitsu training

February 25, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A nightstick issued to Baltimore police officers in 1996 -- requiring them to be trained in jujitsu defense techniques -- is going to be replaced, most likely with a collapsible baton that can fit onto a belt and be expanded when needed.

Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel said yesterday that he does not like the Koga stick, a 29-inch baton that required officers to receive a week of training. Few of them bothered to use it.

"Do you ever see an officer carrying it?" Daniel said, noting that officers were never required to carry the stick. The sticks and the training cost the city well over $200,000. "How much sense does that make?" he asked.

The commissioner said he has not determined what he will replace the Koga stick with but that he is strongly considering the Asp, a collapsible baton similar to what Baltimore County officers carry. The devices fit snugly on a belt and can be unfolded to make them more than 2 feet long.

The Koga stick was more than a baton. The city, under Daniel's predecessor, Thomas C. Frazier, commissioned a self-defense program designed in 1973 by former Los Angeles police officer Robert K. Koga.

Officers were taught a complicated series of defense maneuvers based on the martial arts practice of aikido, a combination of Greco- Roman wrestling and jujitsu.

The long Koga sticks proved too cumbersome. Officers stored them between the front seats and doors of their cruisers, and they would swing wildly when attached to a side belt buckle.

"Thank goodness," said Officer Gary McLhinney, the police union president, when told of the Koga stick's demise. "They were useless and wasted a boatload of taxpayer money. You couldn't run with them. They were good for shooting pool and stickball games."

Baltimore County police Cpl. Vickie Warehime, a department spokeswoman, said officers like the collapsible baton because it is easy to carry and simple to deploy when needed.

The more than 3,000 Koga sticks cost the Baltimore department $19 each. Daniel would have to put a contract out to bid for the new equipment. Various companies make the collapsible baton, which can cost $14 to $50.

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