’It’s handcuffing from a distance’: New police lasso technology an alternative to deadly force

VIDEO: SPD interested in lasso-like tool to capture suspects without injury

SEATTLE — While police around the country face unprecedented public demands to stop deadly uses of force, a new device, which launches a lasso to restrain people, may be the first glimpse into a future of policing without the threat of shocking, shooting, or disorienting a person in crisis.

The technology, called BolaWrap, allows officers the opportunity to safely and humanely take people into custody without resorting to injury or lethal force. The action of launching a cord, which wraps tightly around arms and legs, is reminiscent of Spider Man's web.

“It is just like Spider Man,” said BolaWrap master trainer Kerry Zieger. “Spider Man deploys a web from his wrist, and the BolaWrap deploys an eight-foot long Kevlar cord at a subject which wraps around it, and restrains the person.”

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The device, which uses a blank shell to launch the cord, sounds a lot like a gunshot when activated, but law enforcement advocates say it's a potential life-saving alternative to most other tools geared to stop or restrain people. It is currently in use in 180 police agencies in the US—including Los Angeles--and 27 different countries.

Currently, Mount Lake Terrace police are the closest to Seattle to equip officers with the devices. Seattle police have expressed interest, but at $1,000 per unit, the concept may be suspended during the current budget crisis, along with loud demands to defund SPD by half.

"This device was created to deal with persons in crisis," Zieger said. "Like someone who is agitated because of a situation, drug addiction, mental illness. Officers here run into that situation all the time. It's also designed for police to stop and restrain a person at a minimum distance of 10 feet away without hurting them.

As police continue to search for tools to aid in the deescalation of force, Zieger says the device has the potential of saving injury or even the lives of people who might otherwise face an officer’s Taser, or a pistol.

“The BolaWrap has been described as remote handcuffs,” Zieger said. “That’s basically remote handcuffs,” he said. “We’re handcuffing from a distance.”