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Metro nixes plan to arm LAPD transit officers with BolaWrap



Officers patrolling the Los Angeles Metro transit system will not be issued a lasso-type weapon anytime soon, officials confirmed this week.

The BolaWrap, a nonlethal device meant to bind a person with a quick-deploy whip-like cord, was approved by the Los Angeles Police Commission in August at the recommendation of Chief Michel Moore. The idea was the device could be assigned to patrol officers on Metro buses and trains, pending approval from the board that oversees the system.

But that proposal is now on hold, according to the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Los Angeles Police Department notified Metro on Tuesday that officers patrolling transit services would not be included in a proposed expansion of the BolaWrap pilot program and “will not be deploying the device,” transit officials said in a statement.

The official word came days after Mayor Karen Bass, who also serves as chair of the Metro Board of Directors, publicly dismissed the concept.

At a Metro board meeting last week, multiple people spoke against deploying the devices — though the issue was not on the agenda.

Metro rider Juanita Medina said she tried to explain the BolaWrap to her 9-year-old grandson after the idea was publicized in the media.

“His first inclination was to laugh. He said, ‘Grandma, is Wonder Woman working on the train now?’” Medina told the board. “How do you tell children what this lasso is for?”

Bass responded, “Please, assure your grandson Wonder Woman will not be on Metro.” The exchange was first reported by StreetsBlog LA.

The Metro system is patrolled by the LAPD, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Long Beach police. An ambassador program was also rolled out last year in hopes of addressing issues with crime and making riders feel safe on the bus and rail lines. The ambassadors patrol the transit system but are not armed and do not issue citations.

L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, also a Metro board member, asked agency staff during the meeting whether the BolaWrap was in line with policies for acceptable forms of policing on the transit system. She said she was surprised by the proposal and called it “a step in the wrong direction.”

Metro Chief Safety Officer Gina Osborn said the LAPD had not told officials about the proposal until it was presented to the Police Commission.

The LAPD did not respond to requests for comment about whether the device had been demonstrated to the Metro board or staff. LAPD spokesperson Officer Rosario Cervantes said BolaWrap devices were deployed to the department’s Central and Hollywood divisions as part of a yearlong pilot program that ended in August. However, Moore is seeking to continue and expand their use.

The green handheld weapons fire a Kevlar cord that can ensnare a person, giving police enough time to subdue a suspect without using a gun or a Taser.

Officers deployed the weapon seven times — five successfully — in the Central Division, and seven of eight noted deployments in the Hollywood Division were effective during the pilot period, Cervantes wrote in a statement.

A BolaWrap deployment is considered effective if the device contributed to “de-escalating the incident,” according to the statement.

“That means the device does not have to ‘wrap’ around the suspect, but the combination of the sound, the wrap, or other factors related to the device, caused the suspect or subject to stop their behavior and submit to arrest or detention,” the statement continued.

The weapon is meant to be used in lieu of “use of force to detain” a person, Moore wrote to the Police Commission earlier this year. The requirements for officers to deploy the BolaWrap would be significantly lower than for any of the other use-of-force options, such as a Taser, pepper spray or beanbag round. And the BolaWrap would not be reported as a typical use of force unless the person who is subdued is injured or reports they are injured, according to the department’s guidelines.

However, in his message to commissioners, Moore said the limited number of BolaWrap deployments meant there was not enough information to make a conclusive decision about its effectiveness.



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