KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) – The latest addition to some police officers’ tool belts seems a bit like something out of a James Bond or Spiderman movie. It’s called BolaWrap.
The company that invented it likens it to remote handcuffs. It’s a high-powered restraint device that shoots out lassos that will stop suspects in their tracks.
No departments in the metro area have started using it yet. According to the manufacturer promoting it, 750 departments across the country have signed on. The Columbia, Missouri, Police Department has used the device since 2019.
“The device itself is completely different than anything else that we carry on our belt, as far as size and the way it looks and the way it operates,” said Brian Richenberger, the Columbia Police Department’s Assistant Chief of Police. “It prevents injury. It prevents us from having to use force.”
KCTV5′s Investigative Team traveled to Columbia for a firsthand look at BolaWrap.
“This is a restraint device,” said Rodney Sherrod, a trainer for the manufacturer. “It deploys a 7-foot, 6-inch Kevlar cord that simply wraps the subject up – either lower body or around the arms – to effectively restrain them so the officers can get them the help that they need.”
Officers are trained to restrain legs or arms. They’re instructed not to aim near the face.
Every deployment on the dummy was perfect, but what happens in practice is often different. Even so, the makers of BolaWrap say the device buys officers time and can help in de-escalating a tense situation.
A member of our team agreed to test out what it’s liked to be wrapped. He did have some small scrapes on his legs, despite wearing pants, but the makers of BolaWrap argue that’s much easier to defend than an excessive force lawsuit.
“We’ve been encountering more subjects that have mental illness that are noncompliant,” said Richenberger. “So, we thought this would be a good opportunity for us to get behind.”
The Columbia Police Department has 10 BolaWraps. They recently traded their first-generation models for the new upgrade. The upgrade uses airbag technology to shoot the lasso, instead of a blank firearm cartridge.
Columbia police have only used BolaWrap once in the field. It worked exactly as it should have.
It wraps part of the body, but it’s not really difficult to escape. While it does buy officers a little time, it will not replace handcuffs.
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