Police departments across the country are adopting a nonlethal device that would look right at home on Batman's belt. The hand-held BolaWrap 100 from Wrap Technologies dispenses an 8-foot-long barbed Kevlar cord designed to wrap up a person up to 25 feet away, similar to Batman's trusty tether line. "This is a restraint device ... meant to put time and distance between the officer," Wrap COO Mike Rothans, a retired assistant Los Angeles County sheriff, tells the Los Angeles Times, which reports 200 LAPD officers will carry the device as part of a 90-day trial in January. Deputy Chief Martin Baeza says the department is "very excited" about the trial, which will determine whether the BolaWrap "meets the needs and standards that the LAPD is looking for." The device is also employed elsewhere in California, as well as in North Carolina and Texas.
Fort Worth police were the first to use the device on US streets in April. A SWAT officer fired it to prevent a suspect from running after he fled a home, per the Times, which adds that dozens of departments across the country are "either testing the devices or have purchased them." "We're just trying to protect and serve with empathy," says Hendersonville, NC, Police Chief Herbert Blake, whose officers started using BolaWraps on the street last week. Some critics wonder about the device's effectiveness—one BolaWrap used in Fresno, Calif., failed to restrain a stabbing suspect, though it did provide a distraction, per CBS News—while others worry if it will be used mainly on minorities. The barbed tether can create small punctures, causing pain should a suspect attempt to remove it. Still, Wrap claims "suspects are restrained with minimal to no pain," per the BBC. (Read more nonlethal weapons stories.)