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The Swagger Stick In Law-Enforcement?

The Swagger Stick has an interesting history in the military. It is, in essence, a stick, metal tipped on one or both ends, approximately 26" in length, with the seal of the military service appearing on the shaft. It began as an informal accessory for Marine officers in the late 19th century, and over the years, found its way into other branches of the armed forces. At various times since its introduction, the Swagger Stick's use has been encouraged and discouraged by different military leaders, depending on their perception of the accessory. One Marine general recalled that when he was in China, he witnessed British generals throwing money to Chinese servants. When they leaned over to pick up the money, they generals would strike them for their amusement. To contrast this, enlisted men were required to wear the Swagger Stick along with officers in 1922. Today, there is neither an official ban nor endorsement on the carrying of the Swagger Stick. One may see Drill Instructors and Drill Sergeants carrying it. With this brief history as background, is there a place for the Swagger Stick in law-enforcement?

One of the strongest arguments presented for the carrying of the Swagger Stick in its early years was for appearance sake. The accessory helped give the officer a neat, sharp, sophisticated look. More importantly, it was something which would help keep an officer's hands out of his pockets! It would seem that while a law-enforcement officer's appearance is important, the Swagger Stick would not be the method of choice today to guarantee an improvement. As an aside, it is interesting to visualize the appearance of the patrolman walking his beat in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s twirling his nightstick.


To many, this did indeed add to his public image. In times past in old Japan, the Jutte was used as a symbol of police authority (see article in Arresting Solutions—"The Jutte: Traditional Symbol of Taiho-Jutsu"). While this seems to serve a similar purpose as the Swagger Stick, we need remember that the Jutte was also a working defensive weapon for police. The Swagger Stick was/is not. While it is true that the upper echelons of police authority wore and carried the Jutte as a symbol of their status rather than a working weapon, it is hardly conceivable that those who hold high rank in any branch of law-enforcement today would consider carrying one. It would represent an elitist, politically incorrect mindset, to the public if not to the individual him/herself. If a Swagger Stick were to be worn, an expandable baton would more likely be the piece chosen, being, like the Jutte, a working weapon as well.

Since Drill Sergeants and Drill Instructors carry the Swagger Stick, is this something police tactics instructors could carry as a symbol of the status they hold as instructors? In the milieu they work in, there is no exposure to the public, reducing any concern re' public image. Here too, however, it seems that administrative concerns and political correctness would be overriding factors to negate this decision, despite any genuinely noble intentions to the contrary.

Does the Swagger Stick have a place in law-enforcement in any capacity? It seems that for reasons valid and not so valid, the answer is a definitive no.


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