LAPD to deploy BolaWrap devices to officers patrolling L.A. Metro buses, trains
The LAPD issued 150 BolaWraps to officers to be used during their regular shifts. Over the last year, the officers used the devices 15 times
By Josh Cain
Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif.
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department is still exploring ways to arm its officers with the BolaWrap — a handheld device firing a lasso-like cord designed to wrap around a person’s legs — more than three years since the device was first introduced.
On Tuesday, Aug. 15, the Police Commission approved a new, year-long pilot program for officers patrolling the city’s transit system to be equipped with the devices.
In a letter to the commission, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the department wanted to distribute BolaWrap launchers to the 25 full-time officers assigned to the Transit Services Division who patrol L.A. Metro railcars and buses within city borders.
That’s after the department had already deployed the devices to its Hollywood and Central community stations starting last August.
In the letter, Moore said the device wasn’t used enough to give the department enough data “to make a conclusive determination about the effectiveness of the device.”
The department issued 150 BolaWraps to officers to be used during their regular shifts. Over the last year, the officers only used the devices 15 times, including twice during one incident.
The letter did not say whether the device either successfully wrapped anyone or resulted in injuries to people it was used on.
The last time LAPD shared data on the effectiveness of the device was in 2020. Back then, the department said in eight months of testing during a previous pilot program, officers only used the device nine times, successfully wrapping a person once. But officials said they considered the pilot a success — in six of the incidents the device was used, the person officers were trying to arrest stopped what they were doing when the BolaWrap was fired.
“Even though some of the deployments were not a full wrap, it stopped the individuals’ actions, which we considered effective,” said then-LAPD Deputy Chief Martin Baeza.
LAPD officials have said they hoped the devices would act as a more effective way to restrain people without having to resort to their officers grappling with them. They said the devices are also less powerful than the department’s other less-lethal weapons, like bean bag shotguns or foam-baton launchers. The latter have left some bystanders with grievous injuries.
Whether the bolas — designed similarly to the traditional hand-held weapons made of cord with weighted balls attached at the ends, famously used by gauchos to rustle cattle across South America — would actually work in the confines of a train station was part of why LAPD wants to test them out with transit officers, said Deputy Chief Donald Graham.
“Our officers are tremendously good at de-escalation,” said Graham. “But sometimes that fails — having a less-lethal option (like the BolaWrap) available in those kinds of situations, where the potential for injury is very low ... that is a great opportunity for us.”
Graham said it was unlikely officers would fire the device on a bus or a train.
"(The devices) are probably not going to be useful on the buses and trains themselves,” Graham said. “They don’t have the clearance for the BolaWraps to actually unwrap themselves.”
At the first demonstration of the BolaWrap, the device was fired at Moore’s legs as he stood still in the middle of LAPD’s training field at the Police Academy near Chavez Ravine. The device was nearly as a loud as a gunshot. And the projectile fired spans eight feet, whipping through the air before wrapping around a person or another object. The wraps have hooks attached to the ends and are intended to catch on people’s clothing.
Moore’s letter said LAPD is not recording uses of the devices as uses of force, “unless the individual on whom it is deployed sustains an injury or complains of an injury.”
There were no serious injuries in the 2020 test pilot, according to LAPD data.
The commission did not discuss the pilot program in Tuesday’s meeting. The measure to relaunch the program was included in the commission’s consent agenda, in which commission members vote on several measures at once.
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