The tactic involves police officers charging at a crowd of people with batons and in some cases, riot shields. They run at the crowd hitting people with their batons, and in some situations use riot shields to push them away. Baton charging is designed to cause pain or fear of pain, in the hope that they would be compelled to move away from the scene, dispersing the crowd.
In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, a baton would often be referred to as a lathi. Some Indian police forces use lathis around 5 ft long, but in other places lathis are shorter. The term lathi charge is used on the Indian media more commonly than "baton charge". The tactic is controversial among human rights campaigners due to the violence involved.
In the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, the police special unit Special Tactical Squad used the same tactics and was criticized that they used excessive force against the crowd and the journalists in order to break up the protest.