Those Were the Days, My Friend: Before Tasers and Bean Bags


A Taser delivers an electrical charge that disrupts muscle function. The devices are carried on the officer’s non-gun side, and they’re often marked with bright colors. The purpose of these two important details is to prevent officers from confusing the non-lethal Taser with their definitely lethal handgun.

Other less-than-lethal weapons available to law enforcement include handcuffs that are capable of delivering an electrical charge to the wearer. These cuffs (stun cuffs) are typically used when transporting prisoners, especially potentially dangerous or high-risk inmates.

Stun belts are also available, especially for use in prisons. Corrections officers (CO’s) train with the belts and are often called on to demonstrate and/or experience its effects. Officers refer to the painful act as “riding the belt.”

Many years ago, though, officers didn’t have the luxury of non-lethal devices, such as the aforementioned Taser. Neither did they we have have access to pepper spray, cages in police cars, rubber bullets, bean bags, etc. Instead, we had to rely on fast talking and sheer muscle power to get out of jams.

Sometimes the only thing that stood between having a wonderful day and a serious butt-whupping handed to you by a nine-foot-tall intoxicated, fire-breathing behemoth (well … that’s how big and mean they seemed to be at times) was using a flashlight to deliver a gentle “love tap” to an attacker’s thick skull (an aluminum shampoo). Of course, that’s no longer an option, but the tactic saved my butt more than once. And there’s one such event will forever stand out in my mind.

Rechargeable flashlight

While arresting a very unruly man, a guy who just happened to be twice my size (and I’m not small), my future prisoner decided he was allergic to handcuffs. And, during a brief struggle, my neck somehow wound up in the gentle grasp of the giant’s skillet-size hands. In other words, he was choking me with every ounce of strength he could muster up. I couldn’t breathe and I knew then how it must feel to be icing inside a pastry bag, because he was squeezing so hard I thought my eyes would pop from their sockets. Now, whether or not they’d eject in the form of delicate little rosettes, well, I didn’t want to find out. So …

The thug had me pinned against a wall in a position that made going for my gun (a revolver in those days) impossible. However, I finally managed to get a hand on my metal Maglite. So I started swinging with all my might (short strokes because of the odd angle), hoping to force the guy to release his grip. Finally, after a few hard whacks to his head, he let go. And, as they say, it was game on!



I eventually got that big moose handcuffed and delivered him to the jail. But, my car was not equipped with a “cage” to put him in for safekeeping (none of our cars had cages back then). So I placed him in the front seat next to me, latched his seat belt, and off we went. I made a point to let him know that my gun was in my hand with my finger on the trigger, and if he so much as looked at me wrong I’d shoot him. He behaved nicely. Actually, I think we were both too exhausted to do anything more than ride.

Aluminum and Plexiglass divider between the front and rear seats creates a “cage.”

The two of us must have been a real sight when we arrived at the jail—clothes torn, badge ripped from my shirt, bloody lips, flashlight-shaped knots on his head, fingerprint-shaped bruises on my neck, and more. But that was how it was back then.

Yep, those were the days, my friend …