Sheriff’s department unveils new tool to take down suspects with less lethal force

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:00 PM EDT
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - Law enforcement in Franklin County is rolling out a new tool used to subdue suspects using less lethal force.

It’s called a BolaWrap, and the piece of equipment is now in use at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

“As we try to explore new and innovative ways to do our jobs more effectively and more humanely, this became a very attractive device for us,” Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore said.

It looks similar to a Taser but serves a different purpose. It ejects Kevlar cables attached to hooks. When fired, you hear a loud pop and the cables quickly wrap around the subject.

“Police officers have to use force, it’s an inevitable reality of what we do... But this gives us a tool to use a much, much lesser level of force, and hopefully, the ability to deescalate that situation before more force is required,” Grismore said.

I had the opportunity to experience the BolaWrap. Cpl. Nicholas Palmier could be heard telling me to comply with orders. When I didn’t, I was wrapped.

The ACLU of Vermont says these devices could be a good alternative when compared to other uses of force.

“If this is a situation where it stops them from reaching for a gun or a Taser or something that’s more deadly, that’s a good thing... But if there are other options available that use a lower level of force, they should be considering those first,” said Falko Schilling of the ACLU of Vermont.

Back in Franklin County, Sheriff John Grismore is still facing simple assault charges for an incident where he kicked a detainee. While he’s due back in court next week, we asked him if these new tools were a result of this incident. He told us no.

“We’ve talked about this for years... For at least a year in bringing this technology in. It just took us a while to really go through the motion of acquiring the devices, training our officers and then coming to the point where we can actually start assigning them and carrying them in the field,” Grismore said.

The sheriff says the devices cost roughly $1,300 a piece, and each cartridge is about $40.

Right now, he says they’ll start with two devices but they hope to purchase more.

I reached out to other departments who tried these devices. Essex police say they decided that it was not appropriate for their needs. Barre City police say it sounds too much like a gunshot when deployed.

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