San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies will begin temporarily using a device called the BolaWrap designed to “deescalate dangerous situations,” according to a press release by the Sheriff’s Office.

Described by the maker, Wrap Technologies, as “remote handcuffs,” the Bola-Wrap is a device that harkens back to a cowboy’s lasso. The user holds the Laser-guided BolaWrap up to a target and, with the click of a switch and the press of a button, a cartridge disengages with a loud pop. Almost instantly, the target is wrapped by an 8-foot Kevlar tether.

The county will deploy 20 BolaWraps as part of a 90-day pilot program.

“We believe this device offers very little risk of any type of injury to the individual. It’s another tool such as Crisis Intervention Training that supports our deputies in their deescalation efforts,” said San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos G. Bolanos in a statement.

“Rather than having to be in close contact, forced to going hands on, or having to resort to greater levels of force, deputies can deploy this tool and prevent the individual fromhurting themselves or others,” he stated.

Bolanos said his office will assess the BolaWrap’s effectiveness once the pilot has ended before making a purchase.

The announcement of the pilot program comes as the Sheriff’s Office grapples with how to responsibly handle situations in which tensions are heightened by the uncertainty of mental illness. It comes a week after a man reportedly opened fire at the Half Moon Bay RV Park and as the city of Half Moon Bay reels from the death of Sandra Harmon who was killed by deputies’ bullets in the parking lot of a Main Street restaurant in March.

In Harmon’s case, residents questioned whether the deputies could have used a non-lethal alternative, such as rushing her, especially at what some saw as a crucial moment when Harmon dropped her gun and walked seven to eight feet away. The deputy who ultimately fired said he considered closing the distance between Harmon and him at that point, but concluded he was too far to do so safely.

The BolaWrap was designed for such cases. It is said to be effective from 10 to 25 feet away.

Video demonstrations of the BolaWrap show people suddenly immobilized or otherwise slowed. Targets who attempt to flee appear to topple over themselves or are forced into a shuffle that would give law enforcement officers the time they say they need before resorting to force.

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