Sponsored by Wrap Technologies
By Laura Neitzel, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
The mission and purpose of law enforcement encompasses multiple responsibilities, including protecting the well-being and security of the public, maintaining order, enforcing laws, preventing crime and serving the community – all while adhering to high professional standards. When a law enforcement officer engages in misconduct like violating a person’s rights or using excessive force, the consequences can be ruinous.
Not only does police misconduct betray an officer’s oath of office, it breeds distrust with the citizens they are sworn to protect, damages their career, endangers their personal safety and puts a black eye on the profession. It can also create a financial liability for the officer’s jurisdiction, often at taxpayer expense.
High-profile incidents of police misconduct in recent years have led law enforcement agencies to provide officers with a broader range of low-level force tools and tactics to prevent escalation and minimize the use of force. BolaWrap, a non-invasive, no-harm restraint, enables officers to safely restrain individuals from a distance of 10 to 25 feet, mitigating the need for force, reducing injury and enabling police departments to avoid the financial and human costs associated with use of force.
Mitigating the liability of use of force
An investigative report by the Washington Post found that, in total, 25 of the largest police and sheriff’s departments spent more than $3.2 billion to resolve claims of police misconducti between 2010 and 2020, primarily for excessive use of force. The National Police Funding Databaseii shows that the average high-profile misconduct payout in the United States is around $13.5 million. The FBI reports that 51% of use-of-force incidents result in bodily injury, creating liability risks for increased citizen claims and worker compensation claims for injured officers.
Often, these costs are borne by taxpayers and come at the expense of other community priorities. In other cases, the individual officer may be forced to share the cost of a settlement. Legislation recently enacted in Coloradoiii makes the officer involved personally liable for up to $25,000 of a judgement if they are found to have not acted in good faith that their actions were lawful.
Enhancing officer and individual safety
Anytime an officer uses force, it increases the chance of injury to themselves or to the suspect.
According to a 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justiceiv, injury rates vary widely when officers use force in general, ranging from 17% to 64% for citizens and 10% to 20% for officers.
Not surprisingly, the “likelihood of injury for both subjects and officers is lowerv when force incidents end quickly and with the minimal necessary superior level of force relative to subject resistance, and higher for both subjects and officers when subjects flee,” according to a study of over 10,000 use-of-force incidents by Police Quarterly.
A 1999 analysis of official use-of-force records in Miami-Dade County, Floridavi found that the greatest likelihood of officer injury occurred when officers attempted to subdue a suspect with bodily force (punching, kicking, take-downs, wrestling and joint locks), which accounted for 69% of injuries.
With evidence showing that bodily force accounts for the majority of police officer injuries, it follows that one way to reduce officer injury is to avoid the need for physical contact with a suspect. In fact, a study published by the University of Texas School of Public Health in 2017 found that gradual escalation through the force continuum significantly reduces injuryvii to police officers.
Non-invasive tactics and tools like BolaWrap can enhance resolution without the one-on-one physical contact that generates further resistance and retaliatory violence that causes incidents to escalate.
Minimizing take-down trauma
When a police officer is involved in a use-of-force incident – no matter how reasonable the justification – he or she may be subjected to a range of consequences. Whether to absolve the officer from liability or to hold them accountable, necessary steps likely include an internal investigation and legal review, as well as disciplinary action if the officer violated any laws or policies. That officer may also be placed on administrative leave while the case is investigated or becomes the subject of unwelcome media attention.
A use-of-force incident also takes a psychological toll. Officers involved in use-of-force incidents may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including anxiety, intrusive thoughts, hypervigilance, flashbacks and nightmares.
Even if an officer’s actions were justified, doubt and fear can seep in, making them question their decision, ruminate on the incident and fear unintended consequences. Even if the outcome of the incident does not result in legal liability, the officer may be viewed as a liability, shunned by colleagues and denied career advancement opportunities.
Individuals who are subjected to a physical take-down by police can suffer the same psychological symptoms in addition to physical injury – hypervigilance, anxiety, loss of trust, depression, withdrawal from relationships, sleep disorders and an inability to concentrate or carry out daily activities.
Using non-invasive methods like BolaWrap to gain compliance can prevent the need for physical contact and forced take-down.
Modifying behavior without force
The goal in a police interaction is for the individual to comply with officer commands and modify their behavior, without incident. In most cases, an officer’s mere presence or verbal commands are enough to gain compliance and resolve the situation without force or with a minimal amount of force. Should the incident escalate, BolaWrap reduces the likelihood that a person will resist, feel compelled to flee or take aggressive retaliatory action.
As we’ve seen in recent years, a suspect can also become riled by the attitude and actions of onlookers, exacerbating tension. In such an atmosphere, an officer taking visible effort to avoid the impression of physical confrontation with the suspect can help to de-escalate the situation and built trust with the community.
BolaWrap gives officers another tool in addition to voice commands. If the officer is viewed to be attempting to minimize aggressive tactics by employing a non-invasive alternative to less lethal and lethal force, onlookers are likely to react with less antagonism.
“In the new era of community policing, law enforcement must utilize better solutions to detain while avoiding use-of-force and de-escalating situations,” said Rodney Bryant, a retired Atlanta Police Department officer. “BolaWrap is the right tool at the right time and should be on every officer’s belt.”
Read next: 5 times BolaWrap achieved subject compliance
[i] “What You Need to Know about the Cost of Police Misconduct.” Keith L. Alexander, Steven Rich, Hannah Thacker. Washington Post, 10 Mar. 2022. http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2022/03/10/what-you-need-know-about-cost-police-misconduct/
[iii] “Concerning Measures To Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity, And, In Connection Therewith, Making An Appropriation.” State of Colorado. Senate Bill 20-217. July 1, 2023. https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb20-217
[iv] “Use of Force By Police: Overview of National and Local Data.” Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. October 1999.
[v] “Police Use of Force and Injury: Multilevel Predictors of Physical Harm to Subjects and Officers.” M.J. Hickman, J.N. Strote, R.M. Scales, W.S. Parkin, P.A. Collins. Police Quarterly, 24(3), 267–297. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098611120972961
[vi] “Use of Force By Police: Overview of National and Local Data.”
[vii] “Gradual escalation of use-of-force reduces police officer injury.” Katelyn K. Jetelina, Jennifer M Reingle Gonzalez, Stephen A Bishopp. Injury Prevention, (24)1. February 2018. https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/24/1/35