Riot shield tactics


The main purpose of using a riot shield within a correctional facility is to provide the officer(s) a physical barrier of cover between the inmates and themselves.

The officer could be trying to create a barrier from anything home-made powdered bombs to solid materials like plastic bags filled with sand, crushed or broken glass, lye, baby power, or baking soda, to bars of soap with razor blades wedged into them.

The shield can serve as a life-saving defensive tool from an aggressive inmate, but it can also be used as an effective offensive tool.

General Characteristics of Riot Shields

• Usually made of Plastic 4-6-8 MM in thickness
• Rectangle in shape or round
• Flat front or bowed to face in towards the officers or outwards towards the inmate
• Interlocking shield
• Strapping system for securing to your arm
• Injection mold trauma system to protect your arm
• Various sizes 36 or 48 inches long and vary in width
• Some designed for specific purpose like a capture shield was designed to pin or trap an inmate to the wall for restraining techniques
• Electrical Shields referred to as the "shock shield"

The type of shields used in a correctional facility will vary based on mission objectives. For instance, the capture shield bows towards the inmate and is used to trap and restrain the inmate’s movement for cuffing, while the standard riot shield is bowed or cupped shaped, plastic-type construction with various types of handles and strapping systems which face the threat allowing the user to block or deflect obstacles thrown or launched at them. 

A. Types of Riot Shields

  • Most riot shields are made of between 4-12mm gauge plastic; they are molded to be shatterproof, but not shank or ballistic protected.
    4MM recommended.
  • They are clear in color to allow the user to see through the shield during deployment.
  • The handles are constructed of either metal or reinforced plastic, and are molded so the user can make a fist to assist in holding them.
    The handles are fastened to the shield by grommets, or glued.
  • Various types of handles allow for different positions on the arm and with carry positions. Velcro Strapping Systems is strongly recommended!

B. Shield Grip, Balance, and Holding

  • Grip: keeping fingers extended and joined, allowing one grasps the handles tightly.
  • Balance:

a. Ensure the back is erect
b. Keep feet straight feet shoulder width apart, with one foot forward and the other slightly canted.
c. Both feet should be flat on the ground in a "T" stance.
d.  Ears, knees, and ankles must be aligned.

  •  Holding the shield is easy when one has proper grip and balance. Using both right and left hands, grab the handles with palms facing each other. Or, if the strap is leather or elastic, first grab the strap, then slide arm through the strap. Finally, firmly grab the solid handle.

C. Shield Blocking

  • Blocking is defined as holding onto the shield at a proper angle and letting an object that is traveling in the direction of the officer strike or hit the shield. The most important things to be considered after the obstacle makes contact with the shield are where the object will strike next, and where it will eventually land. Holding the shield at the proper angle will control the direction and limit the distance an object travels after striking the shield.

D. Shield Retention: When using a shield to block or move a person back, the shield may be grabbed in an effort to pull the shield away from the officer. When this occurs we recommend the following:

  • If the subject grabs the top of the shield with both hands, use the support hand over the grip to push forward on the top portion of the shield. Then, with the palm, strike the upper portion of the subject's body.
  • If the subject grabs the bottom of the shield with both hands, use the support hand under the grip to push forward on the bottom portion of the shield. Then, using the palm, strike the lower portion of the subject's body.
  • If the subject grabs the right side of the shield with both hands, use the support hand at the right side of the grip to push forward on the right side of the shield. With the palm, strike the right side of the subject.
  • If the subject grabs the left side of the shield with both hands, use the support hand on the left side of the grip to push forward on the left side of the shield. With the palm, strike the left side of the subject.

E. Shield Trapping: The word trap is defined as holding down or restricting the movement of a limb. The areas of the human body to trap are the head and legs   of a subject

  • Head: Using the top portion of the shield to trap the head in place does.  This puts the edge of the shield along the jaw line of the subject.
  • Legs: Using the edge of the shield to trap the subject’s leg(s) in place does.  This puts the edge of the shield above the kneecap and applies pressure downward.

F. Deflecting: The word deflecting is defined as redirecting the force directed at the shield into another direction. One can deflect either to the right or left side of the subject.

  • Right Side: This is done by using the momentum of the subject, combined with the shift in officer's body weight, to deflect to the right by pivoting the officer's rear foot. Always ensure the face of the shield is toward the threat.
  • Left Side: This is done by using the momentum of the subject, combined with the shift in officer's body weight, to deflect to the left by pivoting the officer's rear foot. Always ensure the face of the shield is toward the threat.

G. Shield Transitions: The word transitions means the bridge from one weapon to another interacting with the use of the shield. Officers need to practice the transitions between Chemical Aerosol Projectors, Chemical & Specialty Impact Munitions or firearm. It is important to remember the weapon chosen to use with a shield will be used with one hand. Therefore, proper training associated with that weapon should be practiced.

  • Aerosol Spray: The spray pattern used will determine the distance from the target,  and wind direction will determine the deployment method.
  • Baton:  The length of the baton and operational needs will determine the distance from target, and threat will determine the deployment method.
  • Throwing Grenades or other types of munitions.
  • Firearm: The threat encountered and type of firearm used will determine the distance from the target. Since the shield being used is NOT BALLISTIC; movement to cover while deploying is essential for officer safety.


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