Tempe company producing device to restrain suspects from distance
PHOENIX — A growing number of law enforcement departments are deploying a remote apprehension tool produced by a Tempe company that discharges a cord to restrain uncooperative suspects.
Similar to handcuffs, the nonlethal device called BolaWrap is designed to restrict the movement of a suspect’s legs or arms but does not intend to inflict pain, according to the official website.
Wrap Technologies produces the product, which is classified as a less-lethal weapon and generally perceived by law enforcement as low on the Use of Force Continuum.
I decided to volunteer and try it out.
The gun produces a loud bang, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounded.
The device shot a 7 foot Kevlar cord — at 500 feet per second — that hooked around my calves. It didn’t hurt, but running wasn’t an option.
“We turn those people in crisis, whether it’s from alcohol, drugs or mental illness,” Tom Smith, president and CEO of Wrap Technologies, said. “You want to help them but you don’t want to hurt them, and this is the only tool that allows police to do that safely and effectively.”
Smith says the element of surprise gives police just enough time to grab the suspect, cut their cords and take them into custody.
This body camera video shows Tempe police using the product on May 28.
The Tempe Police Department is one of more than 500 agencies carrying BolaWrap devices in the country.
“With a Taser or a chemical spray, you’re putting something into the body that causes pain and relies on pain compliance to end that confrontation,” Smith said. “You’re looking for that person to really submit.
“In this case, we’re just trying to restrain them remotely — almost like Spider-Man or Batman — and get them the help that they need.”
More departments are turning to BolaWrap following last summer’s in-custody deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Dion Johnson in Phoenix.
“There’s never been more pressure on law enforcement to change the way they’re doing business,” Smith said. “The communities are demanding it, and police are demanding it.”
The BolaWrap allows suspects to keep their balance — especially if their hands are not caught in the cord.
Video report by KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Matt Bertram.