The device looks similar to a taser, but acts more like a lasso with more and more police officers are adding it to their belt.
“It will, much like a boomerang, wrap around the individuals extremities and prevent the individual from moving,” Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said.
LAPD is the most recent, and largest, police department to test the product. And their officers have to go through four hours of training to use it.
“How could we provide the best tools and best options so officers would not have to resort to force, particularly deadly force,” Moore explained.
Dozens of police departments around the U.S. are testing or have purchased the remote restraint device, including Sacramento, California, Fort Worth, Texas, and Minneapolis, Minnesota to name a few.
“This tool is meant to be used early on in an encounter without causing pain to an individual,” Wrap Technologies Chief Operating Officer Mike Rothans said. He is a retired assistant sheriff with two children who work in law enforcement.
The device works by releasing a cord that wraps around a person 20 to 25 feet away. On the end, there are metal anchors. The cord comes out of the device at 513 feet a second. At 10 feet, it drops to 270 feet a second.
The devices costs $1,000 a piece and are $30 per use.
“All you feel is maybe a metal slap from the anchors around each end of the cord. But it doesn’t really cause any pain,” Rothans said.
Not everyone is convinced.
What happens when someone’s in shorts or they’re in a skirt? What if they accidentally get someone’s neck?,” Cat Brooks, Co-founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project, explained. APTP is a coalition that works toward ending police terror.
“We need to be transforming the way law enforcement engages with our community, not what weapons they have to be able to do so,” Brooks said.
Rothans explained that one scenario the BolaWrap can be used in, is in the case of confronting someone dealing with a mental health problem.
“Basically the issue with the mentally ill or dealing with people in crisis, isn’t unique to one particular area in the U.S.. It’s the same issue we see in small towns in Minnesota, or big cities like New York or Los Angeles,” he said. “Police officers have really become the de facto social services”
People with severe mental illness are involved in at least one in four fatal police shootings, according to a study done by the Treatment Advocacy Center.
“There’s really no reason to send a badge and a gun into that situation when you can send a mental health professional,” Brooks said.
For officers, Rothans says this is a safer option that buys the responder some time.
“This restricts their mobility and slows that individual down to allow officers to put a plan into place,” he explained.
“There’s no perfect scenario or perfect formula,” Moore said during his press conference announcing the use of the device.