U of U police introduce new device to replace batons after the death of Tyre Nichols

Nov 6, 2023, 5:41 PM | Updated: 6:55 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Officers at the University of Utah have a new tool to fight crime on campus.

The department has gotten rid of batons, also known as nightsticks, and replaced them with a new device called a BolaWrap that launches a cord, wrapping up the suspect’s arms or legs.

Officers can aim it from about 10 to 25 feet away, claiming it keeps both officers safer from suspects, and inflicts less harm on those suspects than a baton would.

U of U Police Captain Brian Lohrke says they made the switch just a few months ago after the beating and death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.

“We watched the horrific events in Memphis and the death of Tyree Nichols. And we started as an administration to look at what our tools are and what our training is for our officers. And good conversation came with that. And we decided at that point that we would no longer carry any type of baton stick, and instead go to the BolaWrap,” he said.

As for how it works, Lohrke described it as similar to Spiderman shooting a web.

“It’s a handheld device that shoots a projectile towards the suspect. It’s kind of seven-foot, six-inch Kevlar cord, which is pretty tough, wraps around the individual almost like if spider man were to shoot his web,” Lohrke said.

According to Lohrke, each of the University’s officers has training on it now.

“It’s got a pop noise to it, to fire out the projectile. So that’s part of the training that we did to familiarize our officers with what it sounds like, but also what it feels like when they are wrapped,” he said.

Lohrke said similar to a taser, officers have to be precise with where they aim it. The goal, he said, is around the upper knee.

U of U peace officers haven’t had to apprehend a suspect this way, but Lohrke believes it is safer for suspects and officers alike.

“If somebody is running, and we wrap their legs, they’re going to fall and fall hard. So, we have to be able to justify that type of injury. So, the crime has to be very high for us to use it in a situation like that,” he said.

Lohrke said it likewise wouldn’t be used for low-level crimes. It would ideally be used on a suspect who was posing a threat but standing still.

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U of U police introduce new device to replace batons after the death of Tyre Nichols