On December 11, 2020, officers from the Beaufort Police Department in South Carolina were called to a downtown location where a man was seen wielding two pocket knives. The man stated he wanted the cops to shoot him, according to WSAV reporting. Encounters with the mentally ill or suicidal individuals can quickly go sideways and escalate into physical altercations. These officers, however, had a new tool at their disposal that would empower them to immobilize the man while maintaining a safe distance and limiting the likelihood of injury to anyone involved.
Earlier in the year, the Beaufort P.D. had purchased five BolaWrap (wrap.com) remote restraint devices. These hand-held de-escalation and apprehension tools discharge a Kevlar tether that hooks onto clothing or skin and then wraps around the target to contain uncooperative suspects or persons in crisis from a distance of 20 to 25 feet. The surprising sound and contact of the cord, along with the device’s ability to temporarily restrain an individual, gives officers the opportunity and the time to quickly move in and gain control.
“We don’t want the suspect to get injured and we don’t want to get injured as well,” Captain George Erdel told WSAV. “So, if we are closing the distance on someone that is mentally agitated, they can lash out and punch and kick, but if they are restrained at that moment, they are not as much of a threat.”
In the current reform-driven environment, the BolaWrap is attracting more interest than ever. Instead of waiting for an encounter to unfold and escalate, using the device early can effect an arrest quickly, safely and humanely — ending the situation and facilitating a positive outcome that doesn’t result in injury or use of force. It’s no surprise that more than 450 agencies in the U.S. and 36 countries are internally testing or carrying BolaWrap as a restraint and de-escalation option.
“It protects the people we’re potentially using force on, and it protects our officers from having to become injured while using force,” said Chief David Lash of the Northern York County Regional Police Department in Pennsylvania, where personnel received training in December.
Temple Police Department in Texas is considering adding the device after learning nearby Waco Police Department has been using it since 2019.
“I’ve always been dedicated to providing technology that makes folks safer: safer for the officers, and safer for the community. Anytime we can provide a tactical advantage for officers in making an arrest and detaining somebody where they don’t have to put hands on somebody, or use force, or end up in a closed quarters combat situation, that is a win in my opinion,” Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds explained to KCEN.
BolaWrap is being used in the field by police officers to arrest suspects and subdue persons in crisis safely.
At wrap.com/bodycam, body-worn camera videos from departments around the country (shared with the public by permission from the respective agencies) show the device’s use in situations such as attempted suicide by cop, mentally ill persons in crisis, noncompliant suspects, fleeing suspects and more, including the incident in Beaufort.
The Fruitland Police Department in Maryland is another of those agencies. “This is the first thing that we’ve ever been able to add to our arsenal other than verbal commands that aren’t supposed to hurt anybody,” said Chief Brian Swafford, who worked with the city council to supply his whole department with the devices.
“The vast majority of our calls for service are dealing with people in mental distress, and it seems to be increasing,” Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Police Chief Joseph Deras said. Body-cam footage from his department shows an officer using a BolaWrap to safely restrain an individual who was not compliant and seemed agitated but displayed no signs of aggression. “It’s a tool for us to help people, not necessarily to injure anybody or to overwhelm them with force, so we can get them into custody as safely as possible and with minimal amount of exposure to injury to themselves, us or anybody in the general area … I think that we have an obligation as law enforcement professionals to do everything we can to be on the contemporary side of development.”
As seen in the June 2021 issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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