Glenwood Springs police praise BolaWrap’s utility, plan to upgrade
Nearly a year after the Glenwood Springs Police Department first integrated the BolaWrap 100, the deployable restraint system has been used in the field three times, Police Chief Joseph Deras said.
And though the situations where the BolaWrap is needed are few and far between, Deras’ officers believe it’s the right tool for a niche job.
“Force is the last thing we want to use in a situation,” GSPD Cpl. Rusty Slater said. “But prior to the BolaWrap, it was our only real option for restraining someone who might be looking for a fight or simply having a mental episode in which they decide to resist arrest.”
A black and yellow handheld device, the BolaWrap 100 uses a .380 caliber blank cartridge to discharge a length of Kevlar-reinforced cord with a small, barbed tri-hook at each end, similar to the bolas used by primitive hunters.
When fired, the BolaWrap sounds like a gunshot, an important side effect that Slater said works to law enforcement’s advantage.
“When they hear it go off, they often stop to check themselves, buying us precious seconds to get the situation under control,” he explained.
The primary effect of the BolaWrap, however, is a twine wrapped tightly around a person’s legs or arms and chest, preventing them from fleeing or approaching the officers, depending on the situation.
Patrol Officer Terran Farnham and Slater demonstrated the BolaWrap’s use Tuesday, with Farnham volunteering to be the target.
“The sound is jarring, but you don’t feel anything when it hits you,” Farnham said, bending down to tug at the twine wrapped around his legs. “It’s not terribly difficult to escape from, either. You could cut the twine with a knife or pull the hooks out of your clothes and unwrap yourself.”
The wrap’s sharp barbs hook into clothing, securing the line in place, but also presenting one of the tool’s weaknesses.
“It would not be preferable to deploy this on an exposed area of someone’s body,” Slater said.
Before officers can use the device, they are required to go through training, which includes directions to aim below the knees or between where the wrists and elbows would be on an individual whose arms were hanging straight down.
With more than 13 years in law enforcement, Slater said officers regularly encounter individuals in an aggressive mental state, whether because of mental health issues or induced by mind-altering substances. Approaching those people can put both the individual and the officer at risk, but the BolaWrap presents a safer alternative for both.
“In December, we had an individual making a scene and destroying Christmas lights downtown,” Slater said. “Not the biggest crime on the books, but we needed him to stop.”
When officers approached the man, he fled, and after chasing him a couple of blocks, Farnham said they convinced him to stop running, but he remained aggressive.
When the individual ignored multiple requests to comply and rambled incoherently with some vague threats intertwined, Farnham said the officers needed a way to approach the man without putting themselves at risk.
Slater deployed the BolaWrap at the man’s legs, preventing him from fleeing again, but when the individual moved to remove the restraint, Farnham deployed a second BolaWrap to his arms and body.
“Without the device, the two of us would’ve had to physically detain the subject,” he said. “We don’t want to potentially hurt someone or ourselves in the chaos of a physical detainment.”
No injuries were reported by either the officers or the detainees throughout the GSPD’s three deployments of the device.
The BolaWrap has been so successful, Deras said the department is upgrading to the BolaWrap 150 this year. The newer model uses an electronic charge to propel the bola, rather than a blank firearm cartridge.
The tool will not replace handcuffs, Slater said, or other law enforcement restraint options, nor is BolaWrap a one-size-fits-all solution for every challenge on the police beat.
“It’s not going to replace anything on our belt,” he said. “But it’s perfect for specific situations.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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