A new device that could have been dreamt up by a comic book creator will soon be in the hands of several hundred Los Angeles police officers to help detain individuals without using force.
The tool, called the BolaWrap 100, fires a Kevlar cord that ensnares an individual’s body to restrict mobility, giving officers seconds to swarm the person without using more drastic measures such as a Taser or gun, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The handheld device, made by Las Vegas-based Wrap Technologies, sounds like a gun when it deploys a tether to entangle someone between 10 and 25 feet away. Barbs attached to the end of the tether grab hold of the person as it wraps around their arms or legs.
Top LAPD leaders last week told the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, the civilian panel that oversees the department, that officers will start testing the tool for free for 90 days in January. The 200 devices will be given to officers across the city once they are trained, Deputy Chief Martin Baeza, head of the personnel and training bureau, said during a discussion about next year’s budget, according to The Times.
Two frequent LAPD critics who attend Police Commission meetings criticized the tool. Adam Smith, a member of Black Lives Matter, told commissioners the department would probably deploy the tool mostly in minority communities, The Times reported.
The BolaWrap is not something officers would use to counter suspects with firearms, but it could be used against knives or other objects, numerous police officials told The Times.
Mike Rothans, chief operating officer at Wrap Technologies and retired assistant sheriff with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, said the barbs create a “very small puncture” when the tether wraps around a person and could cause more pain if a suspect tries to pull the cords off.
“This is a restraint device,” Rothans said, according to The Times. “This is meant to put time and distance between the officer.”