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Brooklyn BP Adams Wants NYPD to Test Bola Lasso Device on Emotionally Disturbed Persons

October 11, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photos by Mary Frost

A former law officer shot an eight foot tether around the legs of Borough President Eric Adams on Thursday, immobilizing him in the grand courtroom at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

It was a planned takedown.

Earplugs were passed around to reporters before Mike Rothans, senior VP at Wrap Technologies and a former assistant sheriff in Las Vegas, aimed a handheld device at BP Adam’s legs from a distance of roughly 15-20 feet and pulled the trigger.

Propelled by an explosive 9mm cartridge, the capture happened so fast that the human eye was unable to see the barbed tether flying through the air at 640 feet per second. Adams gave a slight jerk as a Kevlar cord wrapped around his legs, but smiled to show the procedure was painless.

Adams, a former cop, is pushing the city to allow the NYPD to test the use of the tool, called a BolaWrap, on emotionally disturbed persons, harmlessly preventing them from running or moving their arms.

The device is the solution to “the endless pursuit of finding a non-lethal manner of subduing a person with emotional disturbance issues, particularly when violent,” Adams said.

“We cannot underestimate how important this is. By NYPD numbers, the department responded to nearly 150,000 calls for service involving a person in mental crisis,” he said. “Every four minutes in the city, there’s a call to the police for an EDP, emotionally disturbed person.”

Adams brought up the case of Dwayne Jeune, the 32-year-old man fatally shot by police officers last year in East Flatbush after he rushed towards them in his apartment and waved a serrated knife. A Taser did not stop him.

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In cases like this when family members call for help, the police attempt to do all they can do to restrain a person, “only to lead to a serious bodily injury in many cases, and in some cases a loss of life,” the BP said.

“I can only recall the number of times I had to respond to an emotionally disturbed person who did not take their medication or was going through some form of crisis,” he said.

Adams said there were approximately 15,000 instances of the use of force in EDP cases, “from wrestling someone to the ground, to using a Taser, even using [a] firearm. So these numbers are really high, and it’s important we find a more humane way of dealing with a violent, emotionally disturbed person.”

In another example, Rothans played a video showing police shooting a Taser at an 86-year-old man with dementia, who ended up seriously injured from the encounter. (While Tasers can be harmful, they can also fail to work in a large percentage of encounters.)

The BolaWrap is meant to reduce injury to innocent but erratic individuals like this man, he said.

The bola must be aimed accurately and the area must have clothing for the tether’s hooks to hold onto. It can be aimed at just a person’s legs, leaving his hands free to catch himself should he trip and fall.

The device costs $800, and each bola costs $30 and takes from 3 to 8 seconds to reload. Company officials said the bola was not strong enough to kill someone if it wrapped around their neck.

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After being cut out of his entangling cord, Adams took his turn firing the BolaWrap at Judah Meiteles, a volunteer from the company. Aided by a green laser pinpoint light, his two shots successfully and instantly wrapped the man’s legs and also arms — and this was the first time he had ever fired the device, he told reporters.

“It’s an amazing opportunity and an amazing evolution in the concept of policing. Suspects are restrained with a minimum to no pain.” He said that the nonlethal technology “is designed to be utilized early in a police encounter, not after the encounter has gotten out of hand. The most important aspect of policing is control.”

Perfect shots: Borough President Eric Adams examines the tethers he shot around the legs and arms of Judah Meiteles at Borough Hall on Thursday. Photo by Mary Frost

Adams also touted the fact that former law enforcement officers are representing the device.

“These are individuals who were actually on the street patrolling, responding to these jobs, and it brings an important dynamic to this device,” he said.

The company demonstrated the tool to the city on Wednesday, David Norris, president of Wrap Technologies, said, but the city has not committed to pilot it. It is also being looked at by police departments across the country, including jurisdictions in Alabama, California and Florida.

In response to a question from reporters, Adams said the BolaWrap was meant to be used in addition to crisis intervention training for all police officers.

“Addressing the challenge of EDPs is a matter of improved officer training, of increased therapeutic mental health care and of enhanced technological approaches that are safe, accurate, and humane,” he said.

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