Baltimore Espantoons

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Baltimore Protest Painting 72Courtesy Eli Alaman
22 February 1941 Strike, Baltimore Police
Digital Painting by Ken

Espantoon

Espantoon Info/History

Webster's Third Edition: defines an espantoon as follows; "An espantoon In Baltimore, a policeman's club" We would like to start out by saying we collect nightsticks, espantoons, batons, truncheons, billy clubs etc. - If you have one for sale, or that you would like to donate, please, let us know as we are interested.  For what might be obvious reasons we particularly like the Baltimore espantoon. Aside from their being the stick carried by our brothers/sisters in law enforcement, they also show a progression not just in what we carried, or had made, but what the department had made for us and issued to us. That said, while we like Baltimore sticks, we collect all sticks, from any state in the US, to any country in the world.

We have always been serious about the Espantoon, and why Baltimore City Police are the only police department in the world that uses an espantoon? Also, why if a Baltimore County Officer and a Baltimore City Officer both have their sticks made by the same guy (let's say Nightstick Joe) why would one guy's stick is a baton or nightstick, and the other is an Espantoon? We talked to several old-timers over the years asking about the nomenclature of our Espantoon. We were told over and over, that the part that looks like the handle at the top is actually not the handle and is called the, "Barrel Head" next to that is the, "Thong Groove," the "Ring Stop" and the "Shaft." The word, "Barrel Head," might be a mispronunciation that if correctly pronounced, may have solved this riddle much earlier, but we worked with what we had! For years we knew the difference, we just couldn't find the words to explain it. That was until reading a newspaper article one night, when Ken read the question asked  by the reporter, it was a question that flipped the switch in Ken's mind, and once it was, it was like the old saying, "It couldn't be unseen!" Now it seems we had more ways to describe, or answer the question, So what was the 1970's newspaper man's question, he asked, "If a Baltimore City Officer gifts his Espantoon to a Baltimore County Officer, is it still an espantoon?" The answer in Ken's eyes was, No, and as odd as it may sound like so many police issues, it all comes down to training. For years when asked, what makes an Espantoon, an Espantoon, the satisfactory answer was, "Webster's 3rd edition dictionary says it is!" That has not been acceptable to us, so we dug further, reading every newspaper article, every general order and every policy. Doing so gave us what we think is the truest of answers. Baltimore turns a nightstick into an Espantoon because what looks like a "Handle" is the "Barrel Head," (most likely originally pronounced, "Burl Head") whereas everywhere else in the world the part that looks like a handle, is a handle, but in Baltimore City, we turn the stick around, and that handle looking part is the striking end. If a City and County Officer traded sticks, they would each take their new stick and use it according to their training, one having a nightstick with a handle, the other having an espantoon with a burl head. That, is what makes, a Nightstick, an Espantoon. What follows is some supporting documentation on the subject.  

As for the old answer to; What makes an espantoon? A name for a nightstick that is only used by the Baltimore police. — Here, is the old answer, from that pages of Webster's 3rd edition;

Webster

We had a difficult time explaining what made an espantoon an espantoon, until reading that 1970's Sun Paper, newspaper article that asked, "If a Baltimore City officer gave his espantoon to a county officer, would it still be an espantoon?" This single question, sparked the answer. that we've known for years, but had trouble wording our answer into words for a reasonable explanation. By the way, the answer to the Sun paper's question is, No! - If a city officer gave his espantoon to a county officer, his espantoon, would become a nightstick, and would no longer be an espantoon. Here's why. Baltimore Police Department's General Orders, or what today is known as Baltimore Police "Policy," specifically in Policy number 1111, the espantoon is defined as follows; A wooden Baton between 22-25 inches in length, with the striking end of the baton being between 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches in diameter, and the grip end being 1-3/8 inches in diameter. For those that might not be too strong in math, 1-1/2 - 1-3/4 inches, is greater than, 1-3/8 inches. Meaning the way we hold and use a baton/nightstick is what makes it an espantoon, other agencies do not hold, or use a baton in this manner, and that is what makes the espantoon unique to a Baltimore Police officer. But, what if the county officer turns it around, won't that make it an espantoon, well in theory it would except, in Baltimore City this can be done and remain within the officer's training, in the county the officer would be going against his, or her training and therefore, not only would it not be an espantoon, but the officer could be charged and lose his or her job. So part of it not just that we turn it around, part of it, is that it is within our agencies rules and our training that we use it this way. Ed Bremer a wood worker that turned espantoons for city police once said, has saved lives, because of the escalation of weapons, the espantoon comes just before the handgun, so by using it it has ended the need to step up to the firearm.  For the record, the espantoon is not just used as a striking weapon, it is also used to jab, and to pry, so one could pry a suspect arms behind their back rather than strike their arms, jabbing in the stomach rather than swinging it like a baseball bat actually works better and ends the need to move up to the firearm, and Mr Bremer said, "this saves lives!"

 

burrell BarrellWoodworkers that Turned Baltimore Espantoons
1939 / 2007

1939 / 1957 – Rev W. Gibbs McKenney - Made BPD Issue - Sold to Howard Uniform - 10,000 hickory 2,000 redwood over 20 yrs

1957 / 1977 – Rev. John D.  Longenecker - Made BPD Issue - Sold to Howard Uniform - 10,000 hickory 2,000 redwood over 20 yrs

1955 / 1979 – Carl Hagen - Made BPD Issue & his own Stick - Sold to Howard Uniform and Officers - 2.000 various wood types over 24 yrs

1974 / 1977 – Edward Bremer - Made his own Stick – Sold to Officers - 300 various wood types over 3 yrs

1977 / 2007 – P/O Joe Hlafka - Made his own Stick - Sold to Officers and Police Supply Shops - 10,000 various wood types over 37 yrs

 

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 Espantoon 18 Feb 1937 Taxi Strike

18 Feb 1937 Taxi Strike
Notice in both places where we can see the espantoon, the officers are holding the Barrel Head out

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Courtesy Robert Oros
Nice espantoon picture showing a nice Baltimore Police Espantoon.
Also notice it is held at the shaft with the Barrel Head / Striking end out

10 July 1979 Espantoon 72

Above is the article that best helped me put my answer into words about what makes an espantoon an espantoon. To read the full article, click on the pic above and it will take you to the article, you can click on it after it opens if you need to zoom in.

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Do our sticks measure up?

The Evening Sun Mon Jul 23 1956 espantoon72

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ESPANTOON NOMENCLATURE72

The blue portion of the espantoon in the above illustration is most often mistaken as the handle of the stick, but is actually the striking end. It is called a, Barrel Head, this most likely comes as the result of an error in pronunciation, as in many blunt force weapons, the striking end is called a, "Burl Head."  As in the Tomahawk, and other such weapons the blunt end can either be added, or carved into the weapon. But here in Baltimore with years of mispronunciation and a slight southern drawl, Burl sounds more like, Barrel. So Burl Head, became Barrel Head. A funny thing to add to this is that shape of the espantoon's burl head is also kind of shaped like a wine barrel, which added to the error. Now, in the way the JEEP a military vehicle that also has ties to Baltimore has a name that was derived from the letters G.P. for General Purpose. G.P. said often enough, and fast enough took on the sound of JEEP and long before it was manufactured and marketed as the JEEP it became JEEP and would have with or without the JEEP's we know been forever called a Jeep, likewise, the Burl Head on the striking end of our espantoon will now and forever be called a Barrel Head

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An illustration with key to show the often mistaken handle, which is in fact the striking end.

Nomenclature to the Espantoon

Nomenclature of the Espantoon

To be clear about the barrel-head and other parts of the espantoon we took a, Joseph "Nightstick Joe" Hlafka, espantoon and painted the various parts using a color key and the nomenclature with color key. Using BLUE for the barrel-head, or burl-head above we can see how the barrel-head could be confused for a handle. We can also see how some old-timers might think it resembles a wine barrel, an believed it could be why it was so named. When I was a young officer being told the parts, the old-timer actually said, "This is called the barrel head, if you look you can see it look like an old wine barrel." If we look at the part painted YELLOW we see what is known as the, "thong groove," this where we weave a leather tong, the groove serves to keep the leather strap/thong from slipping off the stick. Under the, thong groove, we see a part we have painted GREY this aside from being part of the, "thong groove," is known as the, "Ring stop," and is used to prevent the espantoon from sliding through the nightstick ring on an officers belt. Under the, "ring stop," is the "shaft, we left this stained the color of the stick, until we reach the , "Grip" on some sticks the grip, can be turned into the stick, but most often it is just the part of the stick we feel most comfortable catching it at. It could be balanced differently for everyone. In the picture we can see the Thong or strap, this too, is used differently, for me I like to loop it over my ring finger, I have seen some look it over their middle finger, other over their entire hand kind of around all fingers. So we all have to try it different ways to see what is best for us.

Looking at the Pictures below, we can see that by paying attention to what we are doing we can carry an espantoon in a way that keeps the barrel-head at our ready, Tucked under the weak-arm with the grip end extending out toward the officer's back, leaves the grip-end ready for the officer to grab/grip with his/her strong hand in the event that it might be needed. In photo A) we see it is in the officer's strong-hand, with the thong over a finger of the strong hand, if needed, he could turn his hand downward, allowing the stick to slide out under its own weight until it is stopped by the strap. Which would put the stick in his hand by the grip-end with the striking-end out, and at the ready. Picture B) is as described above, tucked under the weak-arm, ready to be grabbed with the strong-hand at the grip-end, which would leave the striking-end again, at the ready. Pictures C) and D) are similar in that the stick is held in the strong-hand, with the thong over a finger, and the stick held at the halfway point, or so, with the striking-end pointing forward, allowing the officer to simply loosen their grip while the stick slides forward until the thong stops it from sliding, and the stick would be ready for use. The important thing about picture D) is that the stick is behind the officer's back, so while he is ready, he is not doing anything that could be seen as a threatening move. We can now see why, these 4 pictures are a nice representation of how an officer can always be ready to protect himself, or the public, but not walk around in a way that might be seen as threatening. 

ESP means to Carry at the ready labled 72i

NOTE; We included a few Non-Baltimore Police pics just to see how other agencies carry their batons/nightsticks, etc. and how when you carry it the way we carry ours, before long when you see others carrying them upside down, and backward, it kinda jumps out to us as odd. This will provide a nice educational moment for those that might be interested and maybe a little humor for those that don't get it or understand.  

 

esp an toon EDITED

 

In the above picture the letter "A" is marking off the portion of the stick known as the barrel-head. Notice how much cleaner the middle of the barrel-head is when compared to the shaft, especially the part of the shaft we have marked with the letter "B." The section we have marked with the letter "C" has a line at the top and a line at the bottom, this area, we marked as area "C" has a lot of dirty hand marks, but it is not as dirty as the section we have marked with the letter "B." To us, this shows the Officer handled it often down around that section marked "B," which could be an indication that this Officer spun this stick as he walked his post. The constant catch and release of a stick while twirling it would put that portion of the stick in the hand most often. A stick with a light stain and no clear coat will absorb oil from the hands, then pick up and retain the most dirt.  Especially when there is no swivel, and the stick has to be caught and released more often to keep it going while preventing it from tangling up onto itself. Then if we look at the stick between the portion marked "C," we can see the stick was carried most likely in the strong-hand. Some guys learned to spin/twirl in their weak-hand, many just use their strong-hand. So this helps us not only date the stick, but also prove how it was handled, and every hand print strengthens our feelings that this was a Baltimore issued espantoon that was spun by a Baltimore officer, because other agencies do not allow an officer to carry and espantoon, the way a Baltimore police officer would.

Taking a look at the photo before this, the one where the Officer is seen in four variations, we'll see his hand is most often held in the center of the shaft. Now we have to add to the holding of the stick, at the shaft, to what happened when the stick is actually used, either to strike someone, to jab someone, or to pry their arm, perhaps, behind their back or from being wrapped around someone's neck or body. It also works to put someone in an Arm bar, and then to either walk them to the wagon, or to cuff them when they are resisting an officer's attempts to subdue them. As long as it is resisting with an intent to flee, rather than resisting while assaulting the Officer, determines how an officer reacts. This means an officer's actions, are often reactions driven by the subject being arrested.

We'll retake a look at these pics and others to see better what is meant by, "carried at the shaft." if we look a the four picture group, in particular, the second picture, the one marked with the letter "B," we'll see how the stick was most often tucked up under the Officer's weak-arm. Unlike the picture most guys saw, including myself, once the stick was tucked under the weak-arm, the strong-hand reaches up and across to hold the stick at that section earlier marked with the letter "C," in the "A, B, C' picture. My favorite picture is below showing an officer getting back into his car, in it we see his hand at the grip end of the shaft, and the barrel-head extended forward.

oros20000260A

Courtesy Eli Alaman
22 February 1941 Strike, Baltimore Police

Looking at the back of the Officer closest to us, we can see where his Espantoon comes from under his arm confirming that even in the 1930s the "barrel head," end was the striking out. Showing that as far back as the 30's Officer held the stick by the shaft, striking with the Barrel Head.

Strike Baltimore 1930s 2

Courtesy Eli Alaman
22 February 1941 Strike, Baltimore Police

If we look closely at the officer furthest to the right, we can see he has his stick with the Barrel head out, this is how Ken carried it when he was at rest. This allowed him to simply tilt his hand forward allowing the stick to slide down until it was where he wanted it in his hand then grip it so it would be ready in the event someone was closing in on him or his partners. Most often the thong/strap would be looped over his ring finger so when it reached the end of the strap, it would stop and he tightened his grip to hold it at the perfect position for him. With the head forward, if he needed to, he could have quickly used it to jab a suspect that is closing in on him. Jabbing was less violent than Striking. But either striking or jabbing was determined by the actions of the suspect advancing in on an officer. They used to teach, "Reasonable and Prudent," what would a reasonable and prudent person do, and if a person decided they could attack and officer, then of course the officer had every right to defend himself. 

Striking street cleaners on West Lexington Street February 22 1941 Photo by Eli AdalmanCourtesy Eli Alaman
22 February 1941 Strike, Baltimore Police

Spinning espantoonCourtesy Eli Alaman
22 February 1941 Strike, Baltimore Police

Take a look at the officer in the bubble, he is spinning his espantoon on the end of the thong/strap, very nice picture giving the year of the pic (1941) it is nice to see it being done so long ago. This pic was taken by Eli Alaman

Strike Baltimore 1930s 3

Courtesy Eli Alaman
22 February 1941 Strike, Baltimore Police

Taking a look at the motor's officer walking toward the right side of the pic, he is holding the stick at the bottom of the shaft, with the barrel head out front and away from his hand, looking close you can see, he is one of the guys that carved the barrel head so it was no longer convex, a lot of guys would reshape their espantoon to make it unique to them.

oros20000260A

Courtesy Robert Oros
Nice espantoon picture showing a nice Baltimore Police issued espantoon.
Looking more closely we can also see he had a swivel added to the thong.

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ESP held in check dropped shadow 72

This is a most commonly used "Striking-position," it is also a catch, and or release position of holding the stick when spinning/twirling the espantoon.

The Evening Sun Wed Jul 5 1961 pink ribbons and Espantoons 72

1861 Baltimore Police dressed in plain clothes and were distinguished by 
a pink ribbon on their left lapel, and an espantoon in their hands 

CLICK HERE OR ON PIC ABOVE FOR FULL SIZE ARTICLE

The Baltimore Sun Fri Jun 28 1861

This clipping was taken from a 28 June 1861 Sun paper. Notice it says
"New Police force was appointed in the several districts, under military authority..."  
"Newly appointed policemen were designated by a Pink Ribbon, and
they carried the usual Police Club" which in 
Baltimore is the Espantoon

TO SEE FULL PAGE CLICK HERE OR ON THE ABOVE ARTICLE 

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Reverend McKenney and Reverend Longenecker

This is one of the old Baltimore Police Department issued espantoons made between 1937 and 1977 by either Rev W. Gibbs McKenney or the Rev. John D. Longenecker an interesting meeting occurred when after years of the elder reverend [McKenney] turned police sticks for Howard Uniform to be distributed to men of the Baltimore Police, the reverend was set to retire, As such he listed his tools for sale. By the time the second reverend [Longenecker] saw the listing the tools were gone, Reverend McKenney had decided to and already given his tools to a boys school, but he told the second reverend, if he was interested and could gather the necessary tools, he would help get him the Howard Uniform Espantoon Contract, not long after that the two reverends were together with the senior reverend teaching the junior reverend his tricks for turning the Baltimore Espantoon. The younger reverend had been turning chair parts on a lathe since he was a small boy working at his family's furniture-making business in PA (it was his job to turn the rails for the chairs his father, and older brothers were making.) So, he picked up the pattern fast, and best of all he was able to turn them from memory. Well, I am told by a family member that he didn't use a pattern, he just hung the one stick he got from Reverend McKenney on a wall not far from his lathe and they were all pretty close to the same. If I remember correctly the second Reverend said it took him 1 hour to do a stick at first but by the time, he was ready to start, he was able to turn them at the much faster rate of 3 to 4 of them in that same hour.

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ESP means to Carry at the ready labled 72i

We have and will continue to see this picture on the site, look where the stick is most often held, and we'll see why the hand-prints are where they are, and how this is a Baltimore thing. Obviously this doesn't just go for this stick, go get your stick, or the next time you pick up a stick, at a flea market, or antique store, pick it up and look for these tell tail signs. After all no other agency, not only had their officers turn a nightstick around and use the handle as the business end, but if we read our general orders we see several lines describing the various batons allowed in use by the department, when they describe the espantoon it is described as follows. espantoon — wooden baton between 22-25 inches in length, with the striking end of the baton being between 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 inches in diameter, and the grip end being 1-3/8 inches in diameter. This baton has color restrictions and shall only be coated in an Oak, Ash, Maple, Hickory or Rosewood finish. Decorations are prohibited.

NOTE: We are not saying we won't find marks where officers from other agencies didn't carry their batons at the shaft, what we are saying is, in most cases where the stick is not a straight stick, and does have a handle, the handle will not be as clean as the Baltimore espantoon's barrel-head.

To better understand what makes an Espantoon, an Espantoon, we have to take into consideration, what is the different between, a nightstick carried in New York, Chicago, Philly or by any other police officer in any other police department anywhere in this country. Basically, other than Chicago that had a unique turning pattern to their baton’s handle, that could help identify it as a Chicago stick. Baltimore may not have a pattern for optional officer self purchased sticks, the issued sticks were the same design from 1937 to 1992. Before 1937, the sticks were not much different, the craftsmanship was slightly better looking. Put either the older versions or the more modern version on a table with other batons from around the world, and a Baltimore baton could easily be picked from the crowd of sticks.

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Below are Some Baltimore Police Issued Espantoons

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1920's Baltimore Police Issue

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker

Stick 1

Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker 

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker 

Espantoon

Courtesy David Eastman

Look at the officer's espantoon seen on the right side of this pic, and notice how it is carried, held in his right hand with the thong ran through his fingers, and the barrel head out as he is gripping it by the shaft of the espantoon. This pic is taken in the early 1900's but we can clearly see he carries it the way it is carried today, indicating the striking end back then, was as it was in the 1960's and 1970's when Ken's uncles walked a beat in Baltimore, and the 1980/90's when Ken walked a beat in Baltimore. The striking end in Baltimore would be considered the handle to all other jurisdictions, and if other departments used it the way Baltimore did, it was only Baltimore that had it in the officer's general orders that the striking end was the wider end of the baton, the handle in Baltimore is the thinner end, the end known here as the "Shaft."

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker 
This has one edge shaved flat so it would stay in place without popping out every time we turn a sharp corner or hit a pothole. The flat spot helps keep it in place when it's forced between the dashboard padding and the transmission hump.

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker
There was a time in the mid 50's that officers would shave the Barrel Head of their Espantoon
Taking it from convex to flat/straight then add or re-cut grooves in the new Barrelhead 

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker 
 This is another case of someone attempting to straighten the convex, "Barrel-Head" 

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Issued Stick 1987 

This was issued to me on 17 June 1987 when I was hired and sworn in

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 Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker 

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Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker 

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Jim Brock
Perfection Collection
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker Model
Circa 2015 

 DSC5183 Non-Issue Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker

Stick 2

Non-Issued Stick 1937 - 1977
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Rev. John D. Longenecker

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Carl Hagen turned sold through Howard Uniform
circa 1965

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Carl Hagen

This is an early Carl Hagen Stick, it came while he was still turning them to the size of an issue stick, and isn't too far off of the standard issue stick, he just added a few things to make it stand out from the issue stick, the barrel-head is a little over sized and it is turned from an oak. 

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P/O Raymond Wheatley holding a Carl Hagen stick, notice how Carl rounded the tops of his sticks, this is a nice old stick. Also, notice how Officer Wheatley picked up a small child to help him better see a parade that he had attended, but couldn't enjoy over the crowd. Officer Wheatley not only gave the kid a lift, bought him a cup of soda too. 

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Carl Hagen
1955 - 1979

This is one of Carl's first unique designs, it was done solely by him and became a popular design from his sticks. In the next pic, we'll see Officer Ray Wheatley holding a Carl Hagen Espantoon, it is more of an issue cut, but with a modern (at the time) cut, the cut that ended up being refined into the sticks we saw turned by Ed Bremer and Joe Hlafka.

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Jim Brock
Perfection Collection
Carl Hagen Model
Circa 2015

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Jim Brock
Perfection Collection Thin Blue Line Stick
Carl Hagen Model
Circa 2015 

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Prior to Issued Sticks 1954 - 1960
Rev. W. Gibbs McKenney & Carl Hagen

At some point when McKenney had retired from turning sticks, he had donated his lathe and tools to a boy's school out west, and before meeting Reverend Longenecker, McKenney he had met Carl Hagen and showed him how to turn sticks, for whatever reason, Carl turned some sticks for Howard Uniform, he just didn't get the 500+ stick a year contracts from Howard Uniform that the Reverends McKenney & Longenecker received.

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Carl Hagen
1955 - 1979 

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Jim Brock
Perfection Collection Lignum vitae #001 Stick
Lignum vitae is on top 10 lists of hardest woods

depending on the list it is either 2nd or 4th
One might be how dense the wood is, while the other might be
how dense the guy/gal is that is trying to spelling Lignum Vitae
Joe Hlafka Model
Circa 2015 

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Ed Bremer
1974 - 1977

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Jim Brock
Edward Bremer Model
Circa 2015  

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1977 - 2007
P/O Joe Hlafka 

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Joe Hlafka

1987 - I bought this from Joe Hlafka direct, apparently someone ordered it, paid half down and before it was done they found their stick and told Joe, they didn't need it anymore, could he sell it to someone for the remainder of the balance, I was the lucky guy that talked to Joe about a stick, and he gave me the stick for $12.00. I have replaced the thong twice, had it, "I say" stolen once, the guy that took it, called it, "found". How you can find an espantoon in the trunk of a patrol car, and not think it must belong to someone. Not to mention DRISCOLL is written around the stick in blue sharpie by the Ring Stop - Anyway, it is a 30 plus-year-old stick. BTW I stopped the kid as he was going out to his post, so I loan it to him for the shift, and told him to get it back to me, "in my hand," the next day. I couldn't send him on the streets without a stick.

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I Turned this Myself 

1990 - I put the extra groove on the shaft because after carrying it for a day or two I realized the stick felt good, weight was nice, but the shaft was too think to hold on while swinging it, So I taped the thong to the barrel-head with Duct tape, and put the stick back on the lathe and shaved a hand-grip in the shaft. After shaving the shaft to a comfortable grip, I was done, pulled the tape, and it was a spinner, or umm, I mean a winner, 

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Irish Shillelagh

This is to point out the striking part of this weapon, that blunt looking rock, or fist shaped portion at the end of this weapon, and any blunt force weapon is called the "Burl-Head". On the Espantoon the blunt striking end resembles, and is often mistaken for the weapon's handle is called the "Barrel-Head." Most likely stemming from a misunderstanding caused by Baltimore's southern drawl, or bad "accent," causing a listener to misunderstand what a speaker may have said, Burl-head to thinking the speaker said, "Barrel-head." In 1987 when an old timer told me, he even pointed to the shape and, said, this is because this looks like an old wine barrel. Truth be told, it wasn't a barrel at all, it's a burl.

Carl Hagen 1957 77s

Barrel Head

This is the Barrel-head of one of Carl Hagen's early sticks - This Rounded off top end was exclusive to Carl Hagen, and was found more on the West side of Baltimore than the East. The East-side Espantoons saw more of a two or three tiered layers each with a hard edge that sat atop the espantoon like a crown on top the barrel head end of the stick. If we look at Carl's earlier stuff, he had a two or three-tiered top edge also, but it wasn't a hard edge. Carl had a super soft, smooth transition going tier to tier on the barrel head.

Ed Bremer 1974 77s

Barrel Head

This is the Barrel-head from one of Ed Bremer's early sticks, he put what he called a "Nib" on the top of all his Barrel head. Mr. Bremer felt he saved lives, both of Officers and Suspects because as he once said, "Nightsticks Save Lives, Preventing Officers from a need to escalate from hand-to-hand combat to the use of a firearm." The faster we can get a suspect into cuffs the safer it is for both the officer and the suspect. This stick is turned from Lignum vitae, a wood that was banned by the department as it was too heavy, hard and they felt could cause serious injury or death.

 7 grooves Espantoon

The Barrel-head of Baltimore's Issued Espantoon 

Interesting Theory, The last design of Baltimore's issued espantoon came when Reverend John D. Longenecker started turning them for Howard Uniform in 1957. If we look. we'll see the Reverend turned seven grooves in the barrel-head of his version of our espantoon. Some officers at the time of the change took notice and while there is no proof, and it can not be verified, they felt it was because we only had seven districts at the time. In 1957 we only had seven districts as we didn't get the Southeastern District until 1959, and the Western district was shut down in 1951 and didn't reopen until around the same time Southeast District opened. So for many years we only had 7 districts. If we go back far enough we'll see we started with just 4 districts, and that number fluctuated several times over the years. So the number of districts we have had throughout our department's history has been fluid. But at the time Reverend Longenecker started turning the espantoon, we had just seven districts. Could that be the reason he turned the seven grooves into the barrel-head of his version of Baltimore's espantoon, or was it just coincidence?

 

Our Espantoon Collection

 

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BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT TRAINING BULLETIN

Guidelines EDWARD T. NORRIS POLICE COMMISSIONER

December 12, 1987

Revised / Reviewed - August 2002 Vol. 12, No. 10

ESPANTOON HISTORY The espantoon according to Webster’s Dictionary is: “in Baltimore; a policeman’s nightstick.” The term is a derivative of the word “Spontoon” that dates back to the weapon and symbol of authority the Officers of the Roman Legions carried.. In 1784 Baltimore appointed paid police officers. From that time until the middle 1960's when the department switched to motorized patrol units the sight of the officer “walking the beat” was a commonplace reassurance. One of the most unique elements of a foot patrol officer in any large East Coast American City was their ability to twirl the “nightstick” until it literally danced. Obviously then, as now, the espantoon is a defensive weapon. The purpose of twirling the espantoon was multifold. The days before the portable two-way radio, the officer was alone and the “twirling” created and protected a “personal zone.” Another benefit of twirling the espantoon was that a familiarity was gained with the “stick” that developed confidence carrying the espantoon. The espantoon was also used for communications. A rapid tapping of the espantoon signaled a warning to others or a call for help. A flip of the espantoon, falling free of the hand striking the concrete, created a unique “ring.” Even today foot patrol officers use this technique to signal each other. It is extremely effective on quiet nights. Even when “tapped” in a large crowd, usually another officer is the only one to notice. Training Guideline Vol. 12, No. 10 Page - 2 - Departmental regulations allow an officer to substitute a personally purchased espantoon for the one issued by the department, provided the substitute is similar in size, composition and design to the issued equipment. The departmental issued espantoon is 22" long by 1 1/4" in diameter and is solid wood. There is a handle on one end with a groove to attach a leather strap or thong. The thong extends from the groove to the bottom of the espantoon.

COME-ALONG AND HANDCUFFING ASSIST TECHNIQUE There are a variety of uses for the espantoon as a come-along or to assist in the handcuffing of an arrestee. Most are too complicated to describe briefly here. A key element to all of these techniques is for the officer to retain control of the espantoon at all times. The espantoon is primarily used as a lever to add power (torque) to the officers hand and arm movement. The speed of the top of the espantoon is essential. Bring the espantoon (with one hand) in a cocked position and strike forward in a slashing move. Make sure the wrist is snapped forward to accelerate the top two inches of the espantoon for maximum power. Do not snap back after impact. Follow through across your body. If a second immediate strike is required, deliver it in a back hand method, again snapping the wrist for maximum power.

JABBING AREAS AND TECHNIQUE To jab an assailant with the espantoon is an alternative method of stopping an assault to gain control. Jabbing is especially effective in close quarter confrontations such as a small hallway or in a large crowd. This would include any situation where “swinging” the espantoon would not be effective and/or would endanger others. The most effective target area for using a jab is the stomach area. A jab with the espantoon when carried in a single hand short reach position, is very effective against a sudden assault. A jab in the single hand long reach position has limited applications, such as keeping a subject or assailant at bay. The most effective jabbing technique is utilizing both hands. One hand close to the top of the espantoon while having the other hand at the bottom; gun away from the assailant. The technique is identical to using a bayonet on a rifle. Step forward to the assailant thrusting the end of the espantoon in the stomach area while lifting upwards. Both maneuvers are done with power. Training Guideline Vol. 12, No. 7 Page - 3 - Historically, most officers have made or purchased their own espantoons. While all are required to be made entirely of wood and similar to the size of the issued model, each one is unique. The variations of wood tones, size and shapes make them very personal. Often the same espantoon is carried for an entire career regardless of rank attained or duty assignments. The espantoon has sometimes become a family heirloom and passed on to younger generations of officers. The term “nightstick” was derived from the fact that officers were required to carry the espantoon during the “night-time” hours i.e.:4 x 12 and 12 x 8 shifts. It was optional during daylight hours. Police Officers are encouraged to have their espantoons with them whenever on duty. In the escalation of force, the use of espantoon is a step below the service revolver. The espantoon gives the officer the option and a greater degree of safety in the use of force. If the assailant is overpowering the officer’s attempt to defend himself, the espantoon can be utilized effectively to gain control. If the espantoon is left in the car or has otherwise been disregarded, the options for self-defense are severely limited..

DEFENSIVE USE The proper method for carrying the espantoon is in a “short reach” position in the weak (non gun) hand with the index or middle finger through the leather thong. When interviewing one or more potentially hostile suspects, the espantoon may be placed under one arm. This enables the officer to utilize both hands to write information.

STRIKING AREAS AND TECHNIQUES Often the question is asked, “Do I strike with my strong hand?” Most officers will use their strong hand because it is a natural tendency in high stress situations, but your weak hand is also acceptable. If you spin or twirl your espantoon, use the hand that will be utilized for striking. The twirling of the espantoon will enable you to learn its exact length. This knowledge will increase familiarity and confidence as an extension of your arm. Care and consideration should be given when and where you should “twirl the stick.” The espantoon should not be spun in close areas to avoid the possibility of injury to others or property damage. In some situations the espantoon may appear better left in the ring. If the espantoon is too heavy or feels uncomfortable, the officer should obtain a lighter espantoon. The power of the espantoon is developed by the speed not the mass. An espantoon that is too heavy for the officer will be ineffective. Whenever an officer is forced to strike a person, he must only hit as hard as necessary to stop an assailant in an effort to gain control to effect an arrest.

Training Guideline Vol. 12, No. 7 Page - 4 - The best target areas are the legs. The point of impact should be on the outside rear quadrant of the upper leg about four inches above the knee. That is where the common peroneal nerve branches off from the sciatic nerve. Striking this area will cause an involuntary bending reflex action of the leg. In a sympathetic nerve reaction the other leg will also “buckle” causing the assailant to fall to the ground. On top of the calf has the same stunning effect. Do not strike for the knee joint which can cause permanent damage to bones, tendons and muscles. While the legs are the best target areas, an officer is not limited to the legs. Any strike to the head must be avoided. Courts have held that a strike to the head with an impact weapon is tantamount to using deadly force. To strike with the espantoon an officer should hold same in the “long reach” position. The hand should be at the base with the index finger through the leather thong. The striking point should be the top two inches of the upper section. These methods leave the hands free and gives immediate access to the espantoon. These techniques are not offensive but helps the officer to control a situation better and with more confidence. If the officer is in a situation where the escalation of force seems imminent; drawing the espantoon from the ring tends to be offensive and aggravates the situation. When attempting to control a person or a situation, neither “slapping” the free end of the “stick” into an open hand nor pointing the espantoon in a threatening manner is advisable. These actions provoke people and place the officer in greater peril.

 

 

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Last modified on Wednesday, 19 August 2020 15:26
Baltimore Police Historical Society

Baltimore Police Historical Society put the articles found on this site together using research from old newspapers, old books, old photographs, and old artifacts. We rely more heavily on information written at or near the time of the incidents or events that we are researching. We do not put too much weight on the more recently written historic information, or information that has been written with a biased opinion, or agenda. We will not tell our readers what to think about our past, as much as we will tell a story as it was written with the hopes of our readers forming their own opinions. We tell a story about what happened, and not why it happened. That said, ever so often we might come across a story that to us is so exciting we might express that enthusiasm in our writings. We hope the reader will still form an opinion of their own based on the information written at the time, and not information more recently written that has a so-called "filtered past" that has been twisted and pulled in the direction of a storyteller's personal agenda. 

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