The national conversation about police use of force has intensified since George Floyd’s death, which has brought up the discussion around a restraint tool with a lower risk.
Wrap Technologies in Arizona creates a device by hand. BolaWrap is the brand name for this device.
“Everything about the device is about de-escalation,” Tom Smith, the president and CEO of Wrap Technologies, said.
BolaWrap can be used by law enforcement. It’s pointed like a TV remote at someone to retrain them, and releases a kevlar rope with anchors.
“How often do we get cell phones? It feels like they come out every month with a new one but the last technology that came to law enforcement to help them solve these situations was the taser 20 years ago,” Smith said.
This isn’t Smith’s first time overseeing the development of tools for police.
“I started Taser with my brother back in 1993” he said.
When BolaWrap was launched in 2019, we first showed it to you. Since then, it’s been adopted by over 500 agencies in the U.S.
“I believe this is going to end up on every officer’s belt,” he said.
BolaWrap is easy to use and takes only a few moments.
“Everything about this is really simple to use,” Smith said.
Smith explained that the focus of their training is on using it in the right situations and how to use them. One way of training is virtual reality.
Since the beginning of the year, the company has been gathering bodycam footage from various departments throughout the country in order to demonstrate real-life situations where it was used.
“You don’t build a house with just a hammer. There’s multiple tools that everybody needs to do these different jobs, and this tool is designed for intervention, apprehension, early in that scenario,” Smith said.
Another tool to add to the toolbox, Smith said.
“The more things that are put on that toolbelt, the more that the officer has to process, sometimes in a really quick period of time, of what I’m going to use and that could put them at a disadvantage at times,” William Terrill, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, said.
Terrill believes that having another tool is beneficial but can also be overwhelming. He’s watched as the discussion around police use of force has been happening for decades.
“What is new is the public is, for the first time, seeing use of force being used because of social media, because of body-worn cameras, because of cell phone footage,” he said. “The more attention that’s paid to the coercive element of policing, I think, the better because it pushes innovation.”
Innovations like the BolaWrap.
In a statement, the Tempe, Arizona police — a department using the BolaWrap — told us:
“The Tempe Police Department is training constantly to improve our de-escalation and resolution efforts.
We are committed to being sensitive to people who might be affected by mental illness, dementia, disorientation or possibly impaired. The BolaWrap technology tool gives us a greater array of options – especially in situations such as occurred here, on a busy night in downtown, when the individual was not responding to our Officers’ directions, and unaware that he was putting others and himself at risk amid vehicle traffic.” – Chief of Police Jeffrey Glover
“It doesn’t solve every scenario, there’s nothing that does. But it can solve a lot of these scenarios where unfortunately those other videos that have gone viral because of the really tragic ending, we’re trying to avoid those,” Smith said.
Terrill and Smith both agree that agencies are often slow to change.
“Policy development around use of force has been fairly slowSmith said. I do think that in the past 5 years, post-George Floyd, that departments are reassessing their policies more frequently,” Terrill said.
“We are seeing movement. It just happens slow because it’s the government and government doesn’t do anything quick,” Smith said.
But they’re both seeing departments interested in looking at policy changes.
“It’s certainly going to solve a lot of these scenarios every day that law enforcement face that they have to take somebody into custody, and you don’t want to have to hurt them,” Smith said.