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FCPD pilots ‘BolaWraps,’ a tether to restrain people from a distance

Fairfax County Public Safety Headquarters (via FCPD)

Local police officers are using at hand-held remote device to restrain individuals from a distance of up to 25 feet.

The Fairfax County Police Department announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it is piloting the BolaWrap, which releases an 8-foot-wide tether to entangle uncooperative suspects or individuals experiencing a mental health crisis from a distance.

The device works best at a distance of between 10 and 25 feet, according to the police department, which says it is intended for situations involving individuals displaying “passive or active resistance.” The new tool is excepted to help take an individual into custody before an incident escalates.

In the news release, Major Brooke Wright, director of the county’s Criminal Justice Academy, said BolaWraps add another tool to the police department’s toolbox for taking individuals into custody.

“FCPD continues to seek the latest advancements in our profession to prepare our officers for situations they encounter,” Wright said. “Every day officers utilize verbal skills and de-escalation tactics  to resolve situations peacefully. The Bolawrap device provides another potential tool for officers to safely take someone into custody when individuals present harm to themselves or others. We look forward to continuing this pilot and identifying other ways to aid our officers, keeping them and the community safe.”

Police Chief Kevin Davis told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this spring that the department had started deploying Bolawraps in April.

The department now has 30 BolaWraps throughout its district stations and its crisis intervention team. The pilot program will end in April of next year and carries a cost of $46,000, the FCPD said.

All officers using the devices will receive training from the Criminal Justice Academy before using the devices, the department says.

WRAP, the company behind BolaWrap, touts the device as effective at de-escalating situations that are “usually chaotic.”

Instead of waiting for an encounter to unfold and escalate, the use of the BolaWrap can effectuate an arrest quickly, safely and humanely — ending the situation and facilitating a positive outcome that doesn’t result in injury or use of force,” the company’s website states.

The company suggests using the devices for emotionally disturbed individuals, passively resistant subject, mentally ill individuals, persons in crisis and people under the influence of alcohol and drugs, among other scenarios.

More than 500 police agencies across the country use the devices.

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