The Orcutt Police Nunchaku. Courtesy Orcutt Police Defense Systems.

‘There is a better way!’ Photo courtesy Orcutt Police Defense Systems.

At this moment in our nation’s history, as police use of force has become a major political issue, the Shasta County town of Anderson has made national news by deciding to equip its force with nunchaku. 

These big news outlets — the LA Times, CNN, The Guardian — have mostly used the occasion to exercise their wit, playing with the visual imagery of Anderson’s men in blue pulling Bruce Lee moves on the bad guys. Occasionally an outlet has swapped in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everyone seems to consider it a nice opportunity for comic relief.

Humboldt angle? It could have been here. The police chief of Anderson, Michael Johnson, was nearly Eureka’s police chief, once upon a time.

Back in July 2013, Johnson — a Eureka native and a former EPD officer — told Anderson officials that he had been hired to head up the Eureka Police Department, thus returning to his hometown and the place he had served as an officer for many years.

But it was not to be. Weeks after he gave his notice in Anderson, Johnson penned an angry letter to Eureka’s city manager at the time, Bill Panos, withdrawing his candidacy for the job, saying that “a very small group of individuals and/or person(s) with their own agendas” had apparently succeeded in discrediting him. He didn’t elaborate, but it was presumed by many that he was referring to the Cheri Lyn Moore affair, in which Johnson and other officers stormed a downtown Eureka apartment and shot a mentally ill woman dead.

Eureka hired current Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills instead. Johnson stayed in Anderson, and has lately been touting his department’s move to ninja weaponry as a “compassionate” alternative to the standard police baton.

“The nunchaku can be deployed to more compassionately gain compliance from a suspect through pain application opposed to striking, as customary with the side-handled or straight baton,” he told NBC News.

Below: A few of the many video reports on the phenomenon, in which an Anderson officer demonstrates his mastery of his new nunchuck — not quite convincingly, it must be said — by taking a TV reporter into custody.


UPDATE: Oh, Steven Colbert talked about this!