In context: While Tasers are supposed to fall under the “less-than-lethal” category, 1,081 people have been killed by them in the US since they became widely used by police forces in the earlier 2000s. These statistics have led to authorities testing an alternative that doesn’t dish out electric shocks; instead, it wraps suspects up, Spider-Man-style, in a tether.
Reuters reports that another 49 people died last year after being shocked by tasers, leading to more calls for a better alternative. In many cases, the tasers were used alongside hand strikes, pepper sprays, restraint holds, and other forces.
The BolaWrap, manufactured by Wrap Industries, is slightly larger than a cell phone and easily fits into a police officer’s belt. Powered by a .380 partial charge blank, it fires an eight-foot tether at 640 feet per second, wrapping up a suspect’s legs/body and preventing them from escaping. The device has an effective range of 10 to 25 feet and is described as not “pain compliant,” as in it does not require pain to achieve compliance from suspects. There are barbed entangling pellets on each end of the tether, so the only risk of injury could come from these piercing the skin, or from people falling over.
“Whether it is a Taser, pepper spray, baton [...] there’s been this gap created by the courts requiring that a higher level of force be used at the appropriate time,” said Tom Smith, president of Wrap Industries.
“This tool fits perfectly into that gap giving the officers another option to use before having to use that high level of force to end that conversation very early, very safely,” he added.
Police Chief Carlos Islas, from the city of Bell, California, tried the device out on himself. “I mean there was no pain,” he said.
The BolaWrap has already been tested by dozens of police departments in the US, as well as some in Australia and New Zealand.