It's Bola, but it's not Batman: SJPD testing new restraint device

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San Jose police officers could soon have a new crime-fighting tool in their gun belts. In the basement of the department’s South Precinct, training officer Jill Ferrante is testing her version of the “Big Bang” theory.

Large and loud noises echo through the cavernous space, as Ferrante fires several practice shots.

“So this is the device,” she says, holding a small black object that looks like a television remote control.

Small, and compact, the BolaWrap is a lightweight, wearable device designed to immobilize a suspect. It works similar to something you might find in Batman’s utility belt when he wraps up a bad guy. An officer must stand at least 10-feet from the target, to deploy the Bola. It uses a cartridge to fire a Kevlar string with four small fishing hooks attached to a post on the end. The string wraps around a suspect, with the hooks catching in their clothing, restraining their mobility. With 23 years on the job, Ferrante says she’s dreamed of the day such a tool became available to beat cops.

“Growing up in an age where you watch a lot of superheroes, you like to look at different avenues. And I think it’s great we have other opportunities that we can do different things that are non-pain compliant. That are a restraining device,” said Ferrante.

The department has 50 Bola units on order as officers continue in-house testing. The goal is to give one unit to one officer on each patrol team to see how this works in the real world.

“As with any tool used by police, there has to be an emphasis on thorough testing and thorough training and the proper use and deployment of any new tool,” said Evan Deocariza of PACT San Jose, a community and police-watch group.

He says he’s cautiously optimistic the Bola can make a difference before police confrontations turn deadly.

“Across the state of California last year 172 people were killed by police officers. So any new tool that can decrease that is of interest to us,” said Deocariza.

Ferrante says months of testing still need to be done, before the Bola makes it beyond the basement. Securing funding is another potential pitfall – each unit costs about $100. But if the math and materials all work out, San Jose cops could see real life crime fighting imitate art.