The Los Angeles Police Commission has given the police department approval to use a special nonlethal device on Metro trains and buses.
If approved by Metro, officers would carry the BolaWrap, a handheld device that fires a lasso-like cord that wraps around a person’s legs or waist. The wraps are equipped with hooks that are supposed to sink into clothing and restrict a person’s ability to move until police can detain them.
The device was introduced in 2019 as a less than lethal way of dealing with people in mental distress, as a way to avoid hurting people, but being able to restrain them, officials said.
LAPD officers in Hollywood and the Central Division have not used the BolaWrap that much in the last few years, but Chief Michel Moore wants to change that and give the device to officers who patrol the Metro’s buses and trains as part of a year-long pilot program.
Officials with the police department met with Metro Wednesday afternoon in order to discuss the idea. Just a few hours later, Metro released a statement that read in part:
“The LAPD will be scheduling a demonstration of the device for Metro as an alternative to use of force in the system and will share its proposed plans to pilot its use on the Metro system, for Metro’s consideration.”
While it’s unclear when that demonstration might happen, officials say the BolaWrap is most effective when it’s used on targets that are less than 20 feet away. When it’s launched, the Kevlar tether stretches to about 8 feet wide just before impact, which could present problems inside a narrow bus or train that’s crowded with seats and poles.
It may be a tool better suited for use on station platforms and the escalators coming and going, KTLA 5’s Rick Chambers reports.
The BolaWrap shoots a Kevlar tether meant to wrap around a person’s waist or legs and temporarily restrain them without serious injury.
However, during a 2020 pilot program with the nonlethal device, LAPD data shows that officers only used the device nine times in eight months, and was deemed “effective” in six instances.
Just last weekend in Koreatown, LAPD deployed its newest robots after a man armed with what appeared to be an assault rifle, but was an airsoft rifle, fired on officers outside a restaurant and then barricaded himself in a parking garage stairwell. The suspect, who was wounded during the exchange, was later taken into custody.
The pilot program, if approved by Metro, would last about a year.