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Mastering the shield

Shields first made their way into the police armory 27 years ago, after officers in London were forced to defend themselves from an onslaught of bricks, bottles and gas bombs by using traffic cones.

Today, shields are used by almost every country in the world with a standardized police force. There are dozens of styles made by dozens of companies. They have become a mandatory part of correctional facility repertoires across the country.

This article is intended to help you sift through the stacks of information out there to find the shield that is right for you, your facility and your specific circumstance.
When deciding on the right shield, it is important to keep in mind that a shield is equally an offensive and defensive weapon. It can be used for everything from blocking and bumping to smashing and striking

Types of Shields

Here is a list of the six most common and effective shields used in corrections:

1) Capture Shields: Made of clear plastic, capture shields are curved away from the carrier, allowing them to trap (or capture) a combatant by using the shield to pin them against a wall. They are controlled through 2 evenly placed plastic or metal handles that allow the user to hold the shield evenly in each hand and maintain a strong barrier between themselves and the threat.

2) Riot Shields: Made of clear plastic, riot shields face towards the carrier. They allow the user to protect themselves from objects that are thrown or shot at them by rioters. One of the two handles on a riot shield is usually made of hard plastic or metal, and the other from a leather or nylon strap. Thus locking one of the user’s arms to the shield and in turn helping them to gain greater control.

3) Shock Shields: Similar in shape to the capture shield, the shock shield is also curved away from its user. The difference between the shock and the capture shield is that the shock shield is lined with electrically charged contact strips that – when the user push the activation button – will deploy an electric shock into the combatant. The shield is controlled through two evenly placed plastic or metal handles that protect the user from the shock. The activation switch is usually on one of the handles.

4) Ballistic Shields: Made of solid ballistic materials with a special glass vision slot to help the user see their threats, ballistics shields are usually curved in towards the user. They are designed for protection from serious weaponry like bullets or projectiles. They feature a specially molded carrying system, which enables the user to support the weight of the shield with one arm. This allows them to control and operate a weapon or tool with the other hand while simultaneously staying protected. They vary in length, size, shape and weight.

5) Bat Shields: The “Baker” bat shield was originally designed by NYPD Lieutenant Al Baker. It is made of a light weight ballistic material molded into the shape of bat wings. The bat shield’s unique design allows the user to protect themselves while simultaneously using the inner curvature of the “wings” to support a firearm (like a tripod). This, in turn, increases accuracy. Bat shields are typically about half the weight of conventional ballistic shields.

6) Soft Shields: Made of soft foam, soft shields allow the user to simultaneously protect themselves from objects thrown at them and to smash and strike a combatant into submission. With a hard plastic grip and a supporting nylon forearm strap, soft shields allow the user to maintain even control with one or two hands, depending on context.

If possible, I recommend your agency explore the possibilities of making all of these shields available to your officers.

Shield Training:

I recommend that every officer in your agency go through yearly familiarization training with all the shields at your facility, and if possible, a certification course.

Training should cover:

• Carry Positions
• Movement
• Blocking techniques
• Striking tactics
• Trapping and stabilization
• Retention methods
• Transitional training
• Weapons deployment
• Simultaneous helmet/mask and shield handling
• Escalation Tactics
• Verbalization & documentation

Here are some tips for running more effective drills:

1) For each drill, the officers should be in full duty gear, holding one shield. Each drill should be practiced at least twice; once with the shield in the dominant and once with it in the non-dominant hand.

2) Have officers practice drills in multiple carrying positions. Here are a few examples of carrying positions:
- Ready Stance – Standing, ready to engage a threat
- Shield Rest – Standing or kneeling with the shield at a low position facing the threat
- Striking Position – Standing with support hand on top of the shield for offensive response
- Defending Position - Standing with the support hand on the inside of the shield with palm flush to the back of the shield just below the officers eyes for defensive response

3) Periodically when the shield operator is moving the partner will throw various objects at the shield operator from various angles -tennis balls, basketballs, baseballs and fruit or vegetables all work good.

Any training program should follow your designated force continuum and provide the officers with multiple use of force options.

Remember, holding, deploying and/or carrying any of the shields mentioned above for prolonged periods of time can be difficult for even the fittest officer.


Dave Young writes on a diverse topics dealing with crowd management, chemical and specialty impact munitions, protocol and selection of gear and munitions, ground defense tactics, and water-based defensive tactics.