LAPD Explores BolaWrap Implementation: A Look at the Non-Lethal Device

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department is continuing its exploration of implementing the BolaWrap for its officers. The BolaWrap is a handheld device that launches a lasso-like cord designed to entangle a person’s legs. This pursuit has extended over three years since the device’s initial introduction.

Recently, on August 15th, the Police Commission gave the green light for a new one-year pilot program. This program involves equipping officers patrolling the city’s transit system with these devices.

Chief Michel Moore of the LAPD conveyed in a letter to the commission that the plan is to provide BolaWrap launchers to the 25 full-time officers from the Transit Services Division. These officers are responsible for patrolling the city’s L.A. Metro railcars and buses.

This follows the prior deployment of the devices to the Hollywood and Central community stations starting last August.

In Chief Moore’s letter, he stated that the device hasn’t been utilized sufficiently to gather enough data to determine its effectiveness conclusively.

Previously, the department distributed 150 BolaWraps to officers for use during their regular shifts. However, over the past year, officers only utilized the devices 15 times, with two instances occurring during a single incident.

The letter didn’t specify whether the devices successfully ensnared anyone or led to injuries.

The most recent effectiveness data shared by the LAPD dates back to 2020. At that time, during a previous pilot program lasting eight months, the device was employed nine times. It successfully entangled a person once. Despite this limited success, officials deemed the pilot successful because, in six of these instances, the individuals ceased their actions upon the BolaWrap’s deployment.

The LAPD has expressed hope that these devices will offer a more effective means of restraining individuals without resorting to physical confrontation. The devices are considered less potent than other non-lethal options like bean bag shotguns or foam-baton launchers, which have occasionally caused severe injuries to bystanders.

To ascertain the feasibility of using BolaWraps within train stations, the LAPD plans to test them with transit officers. Deputy Chief Donald Graham noted that these devices might not be effective on buses or trains due to space constraints.

Deputy Chief Graham emphasized that these devices could provide a valuable alternative to physical confrontation in situations where de-escalation fails and the potential for injury is minimal.

The BolaWrap demonstration involved firing the device at Chief Moore’s legs, generating a gunshot-like sound. The projectile spans eight feet and can wrap around objects or people due to hooks on its ends.

Chief Moore clarified that the LAPD does not categorize device usage as use of force, unless the targeted individual sustains an injury or complains of one.

The 2020 pilot program didn’t result in any serious injuries, according to LAPD data.

During the recent meeting, the commission did not delve into discussions about the pilot program. The decision to reintroduce the program was part of the commission’s consent agenda, where multiple measures are collectively voted upon by commission members.

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