A new restraining tool is being marketed to law enforcement in the U.S. and abroad as non-lethal and potentially painless. The company is now led by former TASER International co-founder Thomas Smith.
When Batman nabs criminals without killing or maiming them, one of his go-to gadgets is a projectile cable that wraps around a fleeing suspect’s legs. Minus the batsuit, this is now a real device patented by Las Vegas-based Wrap Technologies, which this week announced a new president, TASER International co-founder Thomas Smith, to help roll out the product to law enforcement.
As described on the company’s website, BolaWrap 100 was invented by the company’s Chief Technology Officer Elwood Norris, who has more than 80 patents to his name mostly related to acoustic and electrical engineering. The handheld device fires an 8-foot Kevlar tether at 640 feet per second — about 436 miles per hour — at a range of 10 to 25 feet, immobilizing the recipient by wrapping around their legs or other body parts like a bola, a throwing weapon made of weights attached to an interconnected cord. The website says it’s a non-lethal tool that doesn’t rely on pain to subdue suspects, thereby helping to de-escalate encounters with noncompliant or mentally ill people before a situation gets violent.
Wrap Technologies is pointing to the strategy and financial success of Tasers as evidence that police could use more nonlethal solutions to altercations, and there’s data to back them up: A 2015 study published by the Treatment Advocacy Center estimated that roughly 1,000 civilians die every year from lethal force by law enforcement. It also reported that one in four fatal police encounters involves adults with severe mental illness.
Though Axon markets Tasers as an alternative to lethal force, they have contributed to the deaths of civilians in the U.S.
Police have been curious about Wrap Technologies' pitch, too. According to Wrap’s website, BolaWrap 100 is in the internal testing phase in 16 police departments in 11 states; and it’s in the policy, training and field-testing phase in 31 departments across 13 states.
An investor presentation from Wrap Technologies in 2018 quoted various law enforcement officials who have been testing BolaWrap 100, including Police Chief Ed Hudak of Coral Gables, Fla., who called the device “outstanding” and likely to save lives.
Redditt Hudson, who left the St. Louis police force in 1999 to address problems in the criminal justice system, and who is now vice president of civil rights and advocacy at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, was quoted endorsing the device as well.
“Anytime you can have a more humane response to someone in crisis, it is not only good for the department, it’s good for society,” he said.
A news release from the company explained that Smith, with his executive experience in operations, logistics, manufacturing, global sales and marketing technology to law enforcement, was hired to help drive sales to police departments in the U.S. and abroad.
“I am very impressed by the domestic and international response BolaWrap has garnered from both law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Smith said in a statement. “With the growing challenges law enforcement is facing today, I am excited to participate in both the launch of new technology and the growth of the infrastructure to sell, train and support law enforcement helping foster closer ties with their communities while decreasing risks.”