The Virginia Police Department has added a new restraint to its tool kit — a device called the BolaWrap that shoots an 8-foot length of Kevlar cable at a speed of 513 feet per second when triggered. The fast-moving cable, weighted at both ends with a barbed pellet, then wraps itself around the target, enabling officers to restrain a subject's arms and/or legs from a distance of 10-25 feet.
A Nov. 5 video of a Virginia police officer deploying a BolaWrap has made its way to YouTube, and its manufacturer, Wrap Technologies, is using the incident to promote the product.
Virginia police responded to the scene after a man fled during transport to a hospital for a mental crisis hold. After the man failed to heed repeated orders, the officer warned him: "You're going to get BolaWrapped if you don't sit down."
When the man again refused to comply, the officer deployed the BolaWrap, restraining the subject by his wrists. Officers then approached the man, safely placing him in cuffs before cutting away the Kevlar tether so they could get him to the hospital for care and evaluation.
Virginia Police Chief Nicole Young-Mattson later agreed to an interview with Wrap Technologies representatives, calling the BolaWrap an easy-to-use tool that effectively fills the gap between seeking compliance via verbal means and resorting to pain-inflicting devices, such as the Taser, which delivers an electrical shock.
"There's really nothing else there to fill that gap when you're trying to control somebody that has a mental health issue or people who are passively resistant and noncompliant without hurting them," said Mike Rothans, a retired Los Angeles County assistant sheriff who now serves as chief operating officer for Wrap Technologies.
Although the BolaWrap is touted as a safe-to-use restraint tool, its maker acknowledges that its barbed ends, which are meant to snag and ensnare, can also injure skin. Yet no serious injuries have been reported, despite dozens of deployments in the field, according to Judah Meiteles, Wrap's senior marketing director.
In all, 303 law enforcement agencies in 45 states now either carry or are internally testing the BolaWrap.
Young-Mattson said: "With the new mandates coming down in law enforcement for de-escalation, I highly recommend it."
She first saw the BolaWrap demonstrated at a Minnesota police chiefs' conference and said the Virginia Police Department has carried the devices for about a year now.
Meiteles said it costs about $1,000 to train and equip an officer with a BolaWrap.
Young-Mattson called the BolaWrap "amazing," citing its high success rate requiring a minimal use of force.
"It's just something you have to have on your duty belt," she said.