Trending Topics
Sponsored Content

BolaWrap and the evolution of less-lethal force

How an ancient tool inspired today’s non-lethal, non-contact restraint BolaWrap

Sponsored by

BolaWrap is fast emerging as a non-lethal, non-contact solution law enforcement officers can use to de-escalate situations with persons in mental crisis.

Wrap Technologies

On the pampas of Argentina a century ago, the famed gauchos would throw a corded device to capture wayward livestock or game without injury to the animal. The device, called a bola, consisted of weights at the end of interconnected cords. When thrown, the bola would entangle the legs of the animal, even while running, without causing injury.

Fast forward to today, and the same simple idea – projecting a weighted cord that would safely entangle a subject from a distance – has found new uses in modern-day law enforcement, especially with some of the biggest challenges police officers encounter daily. Enter BolaWrap.


The American Psychological Association estimates that at least 20% of police calls for service involve a mental health or substance use crisis. “As law enforcement, we’ve become the de facto social services,” said Rodney Sherrod, a 22-year veteran of law enforcement and vice president and chief instructor for Wrap Technologies. “We have to respond to and deal with those situations.”

Mental health calls are becoming a large part of an officer’s daily duties. In a 2023 survey of more than 300 law enforcement professionals, 84% of respondents said mental health calls are their biggest challenge. And almost 60% wish they had more ways to handle those situations without inflicting pain.

“We want to actually help people,” said Sherrod. “When mom or dad calls for their son or daughter in a mental crisis, they expect us to come and resolve the situation, not escalate the situation to where we have to take a life.”

Although there are other alternatives to use of force on the duty belt of nearly every police officer – a TASER, a chemical irritant or pepper spray, a baton – these tools use pain to gain compliance. And, as one survey respondent noted, “suspects under the influence, experiencing mental crisis, or a combination tend to make pain compliance techniques ineffective.”

Use of most less-lethal tools also requires the officer to make bodily contact with the suspect, which can result in injuries to the suspect or the officer. In fact, statistics from 2021 note that almost 51% of use-of-force incidents submitted to the FBI resulted in serious bodily injury of a person.

But up until 2016, there was a lack of adequate tools that would enable an officer to achieve the successful outcome of getting subjects in custody safely without depending on pain compliance.


In 2015, several police use-of-force incidents involving persons who were mentally ill, deaf or autistic caught the attention of the media and the public. Among those who recognized the need for alternatives to pain compliance was Scot Cohen, cofounder of Wrap Technologies.

“He and law enforcement leaders recognized the need for a true non-lethal tool,” said Sherrod, “because, although police officers had all these other traditional tools that cause pain to gain compliance, at times those tools didn’t achieve the successful outcome of getting those people in custody safely.”

Cohen reached out to inventor Woody Norris, who has over 100 patents to his name. Norris claims it took him about five minutes to come up with the idea of BolaWrap, based on a childhood fascination with the gauchos of Argentina.

Weighing only 11 ounces, the BolaWrap is a handheld device that allows law enforcement officers to immobilize from a distance, reducing the need for physical confrontation. It can be used from a distance of 10 to 25 feet to restrain a noncompliant individual. When deployed toward an individual, BolaWrap discharges a 7.5-foot Kevlar cord that wraps around the person’s arms and/or legs, temporarily restraining them until officers can safely approach and handcuff them.

When conceiving BolaWrap, Norris knew he didn’t want the device to look or feel like a firearm. He wanted it to look like a “TV remote control or ‘Star Trek’ communicator” so there would be no mistaking BolaWrap for a firearm. Many prototypes and models later, BolaWrap has been perfected and is now in use by over 1,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.


During his law enforcement career, Sherrod was the department’s expert on less-lethal technologies and tactics. When Sherrod first heard of BolaWrap shortly after his retirement, he was intrigued, so he went to Wrap Technologies’ headquarters in Arizona to see it for himself.

“It looks like a line-throwing device that more resembles some Hollywood gadget,” said Sherrod. “I was a little bit skeptical because I was like, ‘there’s no way that it’s going to actually lock me in place.’”

But when Sherrod allowed himself to be restrained, it did. Better yet, while he was contemplating how he was going to get out of the wrap, his attention was diverted away from the officers. Like most individuals, the surprise of being wrapped combined with the tensile strength of the restraint gave officers the window of opportunity to move in and handcuff him.

“I became an instant believer,” said Sherrod. “I saw the value in it and how this could truly de-escalate a situation and help with the officers’ use-of-force tactics.”

Sherrod was so impressed, in fact, that he joined the company, where he is just as passionate a believer as the day he started.



BolaWrap is positioned before physical contact on the use-of-force continuum.

Wrap Technologies

BolaWrap is an excellent solution for de-escalating situations in encounters with persons who are mentally ill, emotionally disturbed, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or otherwise non-compliant but not assaultive. But it’s certainly not appropriate for every situation.

“We tell officers in training that BolaWrap is not meant to replace your TASER, pepper spray, baton or firearm,” said Sherrod. “It’s another option. This is truly a non-invasive alternative to the use-of-force continuum.”


A group of officers in BolaWrap training learning how and when to use the less-lethal tool.

Wrap Technologies

In addition to live deployment drills, Sherrod conducts day-long train-the-trainer certification courses for law enforcement instructors who will in turn certify their officers in using BolaWrap. “Training is of the utmost importance to make sure the users are comfortable, confident and proficient in the device,” said Sherrod. “We also want to make sure they understand when and how to properly use it.”

Each law enforcement or military agency creates their own policy and procedures for their agency to determine when BolaWrap should be used by their agency. Part of the training is to make sure officers abide by the tactical standards and operational guidelines of their agencies.


When agencies first encounter BolaWrap, they often hold some common misconceptions.

One misconception is that BolaWrap can only be used if a person is standing still. In fact, BolaWrap can restrain a person who is walking or even running away. If deployed at a subject’s legs or ankles, BolaWrap can reduce injuries by leaving the subject’s hands free to brace themselves for the fall.

Watch as an officer deploys BolaWrap on an individual who is running away:

Another misconception is that BolaWrap could choke someone if aimed at their neck. First, officers are trained to stay away from the neck and aim for wrap zones from the ankles to thighs and elbows to wrists. In the unlikely event that BolaWrap goes around a person’s neck, it merely wraps around and does not further tighten or constrict the airway.

But Sherrod has seen the light bulb go off once these myths are dispelled. “Law enforcement leaders are looking for an innovative solution that enhances officer safety, contributes to the reduction of injury to their officers and to the individual in crisis, and reduces potential lawsuits.”

Once an agency is educated on BolaWrap, adopting it becomes “a no-brainer,” said Sherrod. “We’re trying to de-escalate the situation and provide a safer and successful outcome for everybody involved. It’s great to know that we’re part of a viable, safe solution that ultimately is going to help officers resolve incidents without force.”

Read next:
Training, tactics and tools give officers options for resolving potential conflict without contact
BolaWrap can mitigate liability, enhance officer safety, minimize trauma and gain compliance without pain

Laura Neitzel is Director of Branded Content for Lexipol, where she produces written and multimedia branded content of relevance to a public safety audience, including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds degrees in English from the University of Texas and the University of North Texas, and has over 20 years’ experience writing and producing branded and educational content for nationally-recognized companies, government agencies, non-profits and advocacy organizations.