Anti-riot shields are light protective devices typically deployed by police and some military groups, but are also used by protesters. Riot control shields are usually long enough to cover a person of average build, from the top of the head to the knees, but smaller one-handed models are also available. They are commonly used in riot control to protect users from melee attacks with blunt or fringe weapons as well as thrown projectiles or non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and water cannons. They can also be used as short-range melee weapons to knock back opposing forces. Most riot shields do not provide ballistic protection; instead, ballistic shields are used in situations where heavily armed resistance is expected.
Riot control shields are used in nearly every country with a standardized police force and are produced by many companies. Law enforcement often uses them with batons. Riot control shields made for law enforcement are often made of clear polycarbonate to allow the bearer to see incoming projectiles. Riot control shields used by protesters are often made of makeshift materials such as wood, scrap metal or plastic barrels. While riot shields have proven effective in protecting bearers and preventing protesters from breaching cordon lines, their use may actually encourage people to throw objects.
The use of anti-riot shields will depend on the force commanders choose when striking protesters. It is recommended that security forces equipped with riot shields also use non-lethal weapons, overwatch and reservists. Riot control shields are primarily designed as defensive weapons, but can be used offensively when in direct contact with protesters. They are designed to be attached to the non-dominant arm and held at a slight inward angle to deflect thrown objects onto the ground. When protesters come into direct contact with riot shields, they often try to grab them. If protesters tried to grab the tops of the shields, security forces were instructed to attack them with their bare hands. If protesters try to grab the bottom of the shield, they are instructed to get down on one knee and slam the shield into the ground, pinning down the protester's fingers or hands.
Riot control shields are often used in combination with batons. Riot control shields have proven to be an effective way of repelling protesters and preventing them from rushing past police lines. The combination of a riot shield and baton is considered sufficient for all but the most extreme riots. If this combination is deemed insufficient, police may escalate to other methods such as water cannon, CS gas and rubber bullets.