Detroit police adding 20 BolaWrap Kevlar launchers for non-lethal takedowns

Detroit police will add 20 non-lethal tether launchers capable of restraining someone with minimal harm inflicted to their arsenal with the intention of subduing someone threatening to harm themselves or someone else.

BolaWrap launchers shoot a 7-foot-long Kevlar rope that's weighted at each end with prongs that are about a quarter-inch big. When a launcher is deployed, the rope wraps around an individual's legs or torso. According to Deputy Chief Franklin Hayes, "It would basically bear hug" the target.

Police saw a need for them after officers fatally shot a 20-year-old Detroit man in the midst of a mental health crisis in 2022. The family of Porter Burks criticized the department's response as unnecessary after they called 911 to report he was in the midst of a psychotic episode. 

When the police arrived, Burks rushed at officers with a knife. They responded by firing more than three-dozen rounds, killing him. Their attorney equated the shooting to an execution

The department did not possess any of the launchers at the time of the shooting. However, Hayes told the Detroit City Council on Tuesday a situation like the one involving Burks would have called for using a launcher.

It "would have been a prime incident where we could have used this technology," he said.

The Detroit City Council approved a $32,083.44 contract during its session this week with Councilperson Gabriela Santiago-Romero voting against the funding, saying she didn't think the Detroit Police Department did a good enough job engaging and educating the community about the launchers.

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Currently, the department has 13 BolaWrap launchers that are only used by members of the Mental Health Co-Response Partnership. The department confirmed only one reported use of the launcher and that it was successful.

With the additional launchers, each of the 12 precincts would receive its own launcher, while the eight others would be held in reserve. 

Only trained officers would be authorized to use the launchers. 

According to data provided to police by the manufacturer, there have been no deaths related to the use of one of the launchers and there is a 90% rate of non-injury when it's deployed.

In a statement from Wrap Technologies, they applauded the contract and described the partnership as a "significant step" toward non-lethal police solutions.

"We remain committed to supporting the Detroit Police Department in their mission to protect and serve the community with the latest advancements in public safety technology," said Kevin Mullins, President, Wrap Technologies, Inc.


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