Shields have been in use for thousands of years as a military tool for protecting the user. Shields went out of fashion with the mass production of gun powder, for obvious reasons. However, there was a resurgence in their need and popularity for law enforcement in the 20th century. The modern riot shield is designed to protect law enforcement and security personnel from specific threats in dangerous situations. Today’s riot shields are effective for protection, crowd control, individual prisoner control, and other uses. Let’s take a look at the evolution, design, and uses of this popular law enforcement protection device.
Resurgence of Riot Shields
Civil unrest and violent political protests in Europe from the 1950s through the 1970s were dangerous times. They made law enforcement realize they needed “new” tools for crowd control and protecting officers. One of those “new” tools, of course was a shield. Those protests were the birth of the modern riot shield as we know it. However, the shields were initially heavier, smaller, flatter and more flammable than those produced today. Those initial design flaws have been corrected in the decades since then.
How Haven Gear Riot Shields Are Used
Haven Gear’s riot shields are made from 4mm thick clear polycarbonate. The primary use of the shields is to protect your personnel from incoming projectiles. During an urban unrest situation, perpetrators often throw anything they can get their hands on at your officers. This may include bricks, rocks, glass bottles, sticks — you name it. In the riots of 2020, we’re starting to see organized protest groups throw even more dangerous, flaming projectiles at officers. These shields also protect your personnel from saliva and other nasty liquids that might be incoming.
Our riot shields are convex, meaning they curve inward toward the officer. (Capture shields are concave, which we describe below.) The curvature of the riot shield allows the officer to deflect incoming projectiles. Items bounce off to the side rather than hitting and injuring the officer. The 2′ width of Haven Gear riot shields also allows a team of personnel to line up their shields together. This projects a wall of force against a crowd of hostile rioters. Your team is protected, while able to move in force to push a crowd back from a particular area.
Haven Gear riot shields also have padded forearm guards. The shields are intended to be worn on an officer’s arm. One arm is then clear for other uses (taser, pepper spray, baton or even sidearm in a worst-case scenario).
The clear polycarbonate allows the officer using the shield to see incoming threats. Earlier versions of riot shields were not “see-through.” This put officers at a disadvantage when law enforcement teams were adjusting to modern civil unrest events. That design flaw was corrected with the invention of clear polycarbonate.
Limits of Riot Shields
It’s also important to note that riot shields do have some limitations. They’re made of 4mm thick plastic polycarbonate. Riot shields are NOT:
If they are struck with enough force or hit repeatedly, riot shields will eventually break. And while polycarbonate is not fire-proof, it is at least flame resistant. This is important in especially violent confrontations that involve flaming projectiles.
Types of Riot Shields
Here at Haven Gear, we provide two different types of riot shields for law enforcement and security personnel. We supply your team with capture shields and anti-riot shields in two different sizes. Let’s look at the design features and uses of these shields.
A capture shield is a more specific type of shield used to restrain an unruly prisoner or suspect. Its name tells you its function: It is used to “capture” someone. Our capture shields are 24″ by 48″ in size, and the face of the shield is concave — meaning the edges curve outward toward the person you’re trying to capture. The padded forearm grip allows the user to pin an unruly person against a wall or other flat surface. So, it’s great for prison security and other situations!
24″ x 36″ Anti-Riot Shield
Our three-foot anti-riot shield is made of clear polycarbonate. Useful for protecting the head, face, and torso of the officer using it.
24″ x 48″ Anti-Riot Shield
Our largest anti-riot shield is recommended for departments facing the most dangerous types of riot situations. The extra foot of protection covers most officers from the head to below the groin or thighs — and can be quickly lowered or raised depending on the direction of an incoming projectile. See-through polycarbonate, with padded forearm grips and protection is also used.