Cops are handing over body camera footage and testimonials to Wrap Technologies to help the security firm market its controversial high-tech lasso, the BolaWrap, to other police departments, the Daily Dot reports. In some instances, Wrap purportedly sweetened the deal by offering a free device to departments that shared footage.
The BolaWrap, which Wrap markets to police as a de-escalation tool, uses gunpowder to explosively discharge an eight-foot Kevlar tether with barbed metal hooks. It’s designed to restrain “uncooperative suspects or nonresponsive persons” from afar, between a range of 10 to 25 feet, according to Wrap’s website.
Police departments in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Beaufort, South Carolina readily supplied Wrap with bodycam footage of officers using the BolaWrap on the job, according to email correspondence obtained with public record requests and reviewed by the outlet. Wrap went on to incorporate edited versions of this footage in the device’s marketing materials, some of which also appeared in media coverage of the BolaWrap. Wyoming Police Department and Beaufort Police Department were each offered a free BolaWrap after handing over this information, representatives told the Daily Dot, though both departments claim they weren’t aware of any such offer before they opted to share the info with Wrap.
In its emails to officers, Wrap requests details about any deployments of the BolaWrap after demonstrations and training periods, the Daily Dot reports. The company claims that this follow-up information is intended to support future product development and help instructors and other police departments learn to use the BolaWrap properly.
However, much of the footage and testimonials ended up in promotional emails and on the company’s social media where Wrap could profit from it, according to the outlet. Wrap’s YouTube channel also features edited footage from several police departments where the individuals involved in these incidents have their faces blurred and last names redacted. In all of the videos released by police, officers deploy the BolaWrap to try to restrain an individual reportedly dealing with mental health issues after other de-escalation tactics fail, according to police records. Several of these real-life deployments are featured on Wrap’s homepage under the banner of “Success Stories.”
“We encourage police departments to share bodycam footage of BolaWrap deployments so the company and other law enforcement agencies can learn from those,” Wrap told the Daily Dot. “When we release a bodycam video, the subject’s face is always blurred.”
It didn’t respond to the outlet’s questions about why police departments were offered free BolaWraps. Wrap did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment on the matter either, but we’ll update this blog should we hear back.
Regulations for police bodycam footage vary by state, with many states limiting the release of videos that could compromise ongoing investigations or identify a subject who has not been charged with a crime, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. Certain states also allow bodycam footage to be released for training purposes.
In its emails with Wrap, Glenwood Springs Police Department agreed to let the company share footage of an incident with local media outlets, the Daily Dot reports. This bodycam footage later ended up in a segment on Fox Business. Wyoming Police Department and Beaufort Police Department also approved Wrap’s further edits to their respective footage before allowing the company to publish it online, according to correspondence reviewed by the outlet.