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Hyattsville City Council is considering arming the city’s police department with “less-lethal” BolaWrap-brand weapons designed to tangle and subdue targets with a length of cord.
The handheld device uses gunpowder blanks to fire a length of kevlar tether with weighted barbs that can wrap around the target’s arms, torso and legs to immobilize them. The devices are made by Tempe, Arizona,-based Wrap. Inc., which patented the device in 2018.
City Council’s interest in the device stems from the events leading up to the fatal police shooting of Leonard Shand in 2019. During that incident, police attempted several times to use pepper spray and electrical stun guns to control Shand without effect. Later during the incident, police used another “less-lethal” weapon to try to subdue Shand, shooting at him with four bean-bag rounds fired from a shotgun. However, according to a county investigation, as those shots were fired, Shand charged at the line of police who then opened fire 43 times with their handguns, killing him.
“We cannot pretend that our police department does not need tools that are nonlethal,” said Councilor Joseph Solomon, who sponsored a measure directing the city police department to purchase the weapons. “I think it is important that more non-lethal options are considered.”
The measure appears to have broad support on City Council. Though Councilor Bart Lawrence was more tepid, cautioning City Council from getting overly excited about another technical solution to a problem that has many dimensions.
“This is a new device, and I would love to hear more about it. But what I quickly gathered from a Google search is it is not yet a proven device,” said Lawrence. “Again, I am going to ask my colleagues to consider something: Will this have the intended outcome we want it to?”
“We were all saddened to witness the deployment of multiple non-lethal devices [with Shand] and still a life was lost,” said Lawrence. “Why would we necessarily assume that this is effective, rather than addressing the concerns around procedures?”
“I just think it’s a great idea,” said Councilor Robert Croslin. “Anytime we can come up with a non-lethal method to control an issue, I think we need to do it.”
“It is another tool in the tool box. The more nonlethal tools we have in the tool box, then we are increasing the possibility of avoiding lethal outcomes,” said Councilor Edouard Haba. “If we can replenish the toolbox with non-lethal tools, let’s go ahead and take that direction.”