Portland metro law enforcement have new tool to stop suspects

FOX 12 Investigates learns about the BolaWrap.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 11:57 AM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - There’s a new tool available to some police officers around the region. It’s called the BolaWrap and officers are hailing it as an important tool in their effort to de-escalate situations that might otherwise get out of control.

“It’s like being able to put handcuffs on a suspect from a distance,” says Sergeant Brant Thompson with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

The device works by shooting a rope out with small hooks attached to each end. It then wraps around the target’s legs or torso and immobilizes them long enough for an officer to come in and detain them. The creators also designed the device to be loud so that, when fired, it triggers a startled response from the suspect, causing them to look down as officers try to make an arrest.

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The experience of getting “wrapped” is relatively painless. Other than a little poke, it’s no more than accidentally catching yourself with a fishing hook while casting. And while the rope is relatively easy to escape, those few seconds of struggling are enough for officers to get control of the situation.

The pricing on the devices is comparable to a taser, around $1,500 for the device and less than $15 for each cartridge.

After Thompson learned about the device and got training on how to use it, he advocated for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office to invest.

“You know, for us, it was a pretty big deal to spring for I think it was like $9,000 was the initial purchase price. And that’s a lot of money for us,” he said. “But I think the benefits of what the device could do, even in one scenario, if you are able to save one person with this, I think it’s worth the investment.”

The Columbia County Sheriff is one of only four law enforcement agencies in Oregon to use the Bola wrap. But In Washington, there are 20 agencies with the new tool.