Feb 9, 2024 - News

Fairfax County police to use lasso-like device to restrain people

BolaWrap, a hand-held, remote restraint device that discharges an eight-foot tether at 513 feet per second to safely restrain a subject at a range of 10-25 feet.

BolaWrap in action. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fairfax County police are tossing out a new tool for officers: Spider-Man-like lassos that can restrain individuals from a distance.

Why it matters: Fairfax will be the first major law enforcement agency in the region to use BolaWraps — a non-lethal style of restraining device that's proved helpful in handling people exhibiting mildly aggressive behavior or in a mental crisis.

Context: The new technology is being employed at a time when there's rising scrutiny over police use of force in restraining subjects or responding to mental health crises, such as a recent incident in D.C. where a man was shot and killed.

A bright yellow BolaWrap cartridge with the tether around it
The BolaWrap device. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

How it works: The handheld, battery-powered device is equipped with a laser, which officers point at targets to fire a 7.5-ft Kevlar cord with the press of a button.

  • The cord, attached with barbs for holding it in place, wraps around the target as many as three times, according to the Washington Post — though not too tightly to be a choking hazard.

What they're saying: "I think of this as flying handcuffs, for lack of a better description," Fairfax County police chief Kevin Davis told the Post.

  • A BolaWrap pilot proved successful in the department, Davis said, noting that officers found it helpful in situations where people didn't respond to commands but also weren't armed or posing threats.

Between the lines: The wraps are expensive. Fairfax County is buying 450 devices – enough for each of its 800-odd officers to use – at around $1,000 a pop.

The big picture: Other city police departments, including Atlanta and Los Angeles, have used the lassos.

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