In the wake of 49 deaths in 2018 related to police use of tasers, law enforcement institutions have shown interest in an alternative device similar to the ensnaring web used by crime-fighting, comic-book superhero Spiderman. The device, like Spiderman’s web, catches suspects by entangling their legs to prevent a get-away.
The Bolawrap is a cell phone-sized device that shoots an eight-foot synthetic fiber cord at a speed of 640 feet per second from 10-25 feet away. The flying tether moves too quickly to be detected and wraps around the suspect’s legs (or arms and torso) to entangle them and prevent their escape.
The most appealing feature is its simplicity. The ease of use and the relative safety of the device are attracting the attention of police departments throughout the U.S. and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
Unlike tasers, pepper spray, and use of physical force to restrain suspects, the Bolawrap avoids the risk of harm to suspects while efficiently immobilizing them. It allows officers to keep a safe distance, while acting to de-escalate tensions in a way that more hands-on types of restraint cannot offer.
Modeled and named after a bola, a weapon historically used by South American gauchos and Indians to ensnare the legs of animals such as cattle, the Bolawrap design uses small metal barbs on the ends of a Kevlar cord to secure the device around the suspect. The cord wraps around the suspect up to three times in a split second.
The Bolawrap fits easily on a police officer’s belt, requires little training to operate, and can be reloaded to deploy again in three to eight seconds.
Originally billed as “non-lethal” restraint devices, tasers have been implicated in 1081 deaths since they became widely used in the early 2000s, giving law enforcement agencies a compelling motive to seek out alternate ways to subdue suspects.
The Bolawrap, by contrast, is not dependent on inducing pain in order to achieve compliance, making it particularly useful when confronted with suspects suffering from mental health issues—a population that accounts for a significant portion of those involved in police confrontations.
Within the U.S., more than 1100 police departments have requested demonstrations. More than 60 police departments are testing the Bolawrap internally, while another 30 are using the device in the field.
Attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser defend police officers accused of misconduct or use of force. We also advise government and law enforcement clients in ways to protect themselves from legal liability. To learn more, contact us online or call our West Chester, Pennsylvania office at 484-318-7106. We serve clients in the Philadelphia area, and throughout Chester County.