DENVER (KDVR) — In mid-March on a cold night in Glenwood Springs, police responded to a call of a male subject in crisis.
The man had been running into traffic, endangering himself and others. After repeated warnings, an officer told the man, “Last chance. You’re going to get restrained.”
When the man didn’t stop, the officer deployed the department’s latest tool, a high-tech lasso called a BolaWrap that tethered the man. Body camera video shows police and paramedics talking to the man as he is loaded into an ambulance.
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Dera told the Problem Solvers the use of the device earlier this year helped officers detain a suspect from afar without injury.
“We don’t have a goal or intention of hurting people to get them into custody. We prefer we can do it as safely as possible. Here, we were able to detain this person and get him the medical treatment that he needed,” he said.
Lasso like a ‘Spider-Man tool for our officers’
In Colorado, 16 law enforcement departments have bought the device. In the Denver metro, we found four agencies are training on the wrap: Greeley, Nederland, Frisco and Louisville.
The Louisville Police Department invited the Problem Solvers to see officers as they are learning how to use the 7-foot-6-inch cord that wraps around a suspect.
“You can think back to Spider-Man days. Spider-Man would deploy his web so he could apprehend and address the situations as he needed to,” Louisville Police’s crime prevention specialist Scott Moore said. “This is kind of that Spider-Man tool for our officers.”
A handheld device shoots out the tether at 350 mph, giving police the option of a new hands-off approach. Louisville police bought 12 of the device.
“The wrap itself is very effective. There are two grapple hooks that come around and attach into clothing, attached to about a 7-foot long Kevlar cord,” Moore said. “Very difficult to get out of. So, as it’s wrapped up, it will temporarily control that individual so officers can come in and make that arrest.”
Police approaching lasso use with caution
Officer Ryan Haylett found out firsthand what it felt like to be wrapped.
“It definitely would have slowed me down. Did a good job getting a nice secure wrap around the legs. It would have been effective,” Haylett said.
There are limitations about when the wrap can be used.
“This won’t be able to be deployed if there’s a large crowd around the individual. It’s harder to deploy in confined space,” Moore said.
It is not called a weapon and is not designed to be used on someone who has a weapon.
“I’m just cautious saying this is the answer to all of problems,” said use-of-force expert and police officer Chad Lyman.
“What happens when it’s windy? What happens when they’re running? What happens when there’s a person close to them and you shoot the wrong person, then he stabs that person because they are incapacitated? There’s a lot of what happens,” Lyman said.
The largest department using the device in Colorado is Greeley. Leaders told the Problem Solvers the department hopes to have wraps in the field by the end of the August. Patrol sergeants will keep the device in their cars.
“We need to understand what that value is both on the community’s side and law enforcement’s side and know that we’re still going to have a set of circumstances where it’s appropriate to use and then even if we use it in that manner, it may fail and it might have unintended consequences,” Lyman said.
The firing device cost departments between $924 to $1,300, with each cartridge costing $29.95.
Which Colorado police agencies have bought or are testing the BolaWrap lasso?
More than 570 agencies are currently in various stages of BolaWrap testing and usage. It’s being used in Houston, and the Los Angeles Police Department recently extended a pilot program. Seattle will be launching a pilot program soon.
The following Colorado agencies have purchased the BolaWrap:
- Antonito Police Department
- Avon Police Department
- Bayfield Marshal’s Office
- Dillon Police Department
- Frisco Police Department
- Glenwood Springs Police Department
- Greeley Police Department
- Greenwood Village Police Department
- Gunnison Police Department
- La Junta Police Department
- Louisville Police Department
- Manassa Police Department
- Nederland Police Department
- Otero County Sheriff’s Office
- Rifle Police Department
- Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Office
The following Colorado agencies are training to potentially use the device:
- Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office
- Englewood Police Department
- Lakewood Police Department