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N. Canton outfits officers with 'BolaWraps,' described as remote handcuffs, to aid in de-escalation

'This allows us to gain control over them when need be.'
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Posted at 6:37 PM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 22:48:59-04

NORTH CANTON, Ohio — It sounds like a gun firing, deploys something that looks like a lasso, and has become the latest restraint tool in the toolbox for the North Canton Police Department.

The department has invested about $16,000 in BolaWrap devices. North Canton currently has eight of them and demonstrated how they work to a News 5 crew.

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Sgt. Cody Dollinger "wrapped" Patrick De Orio, the director of administration, who stood about 20 feet away in the department's gun range. After giving a few verbal warnings, Dollinger deployed the BolaWrap, which sent a cord around De Orio's lower legs, keeping them wrapped in place.

"It's scary. It really is. It happens in such an instant that you just don't realize— other than the loud bang— next thing you know you can't move," De Orio said. "I wouldn't say that it hurts. It'd be like maybe you feel like you're getting hit with a flyswatter for just a minute."

Dollinger said the device, which he compared to remote handcuffs, uses a 7-and-a-1/2-foot Kevlar cord, metal anchors and barbed hooks.

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"The cord then wraps around the individual and those hooks dig into the clothing and it gives us a temporary amount of time to be able to move in safely," Dollinger said.

City leaders felt it was important to look for de-escalation options other than guns and electroshock weapons, such as Tasers.

De Orio said the scrutiny of police over use of force incidents nationwide and the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota played a role in buying the BolaWraps.

"Things were kind of wild in the United States with things that were going on and I was just researching technologies to provide officers with a different alternative," De Orio said. "We're not going to be reactive and wait for it. Let's be proactive and try to make sure that this never happens here."

Dollinger said "wrapping" someone provides an important alternative in-between verbal commands that aren't working and inflicting pain with weapons. He believes the devices could be a good solution for those in crisis.

"People in crisis generally don't mean to hurt themselves or others. They may not know what they're doing at the time. This allows us to gain control over them when need be," he said.

North Canton continues to train officers on the newest version of the device, which the department has been outfitting officers with over the past few months. Those have not been used in the field so far. Dollinger would like to keep it that way, hoping BolaWrap serves as a deterrent to potential police-involved incidents.

"We're happy when we don't have to use any of this stuff," he said. "If I can go through my whole shift and just merely talk to people, that's a good day. Unfortunately, that's not the world we live in, and the more prepared we can be before we need it, the better off we'll be."