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Buffalo police considering non-lethal technology to deescalate a call

“This is not lethal force — it is about restraint”
Posted at 7:40 PM, Sep 21, 2020

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The City of Buffalo is looking for answers in how best police officers can safely restrain someone on a call.

The Buffalo Police Department and Mayor Byron Brown demonstrated non-lethal technology at police headquarters late Monday afternoon.

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BolaWrap demonstration inside Buffalo Police Headquarters.

City leaders says the BolaWrap device could assist in deescalating a tense call on the streets.

A police officer holds a hand held device that dispenses a thin, string like material, which is a kevlar cord.

It immediately wraps around a person's waist or legs with small fish-hooks that embed in clothing.

This would prevent a person from running and fighting with police. If they do, the hooks will embed deeper.

“The chance of the device hurting a person, if used appropriately, is externally low,” stated Jeff Rinaldo, Buffalo Police Captain.

7 Eyewitness News asked Rindaldo if this would have been to have more than a week ago when 60-year-old Willie Henley recently shot and injuries by Buffalo Police officer Karl Schultz because Henley was waving a bat during a call on Genesee Street.

"To use a crystal ball — would this or some other device had worked in that situation they're quickly evolving situations, so to do that would be Monday morning quarter backing — it's not fair to the officers or the person," responded Rinaldo.

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Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo shows how the device wrapped arounds a person.

The device is effective when an officer is in the range of ten to 20 feet from the individual.

“The key is to be on the cutting edge, but not necessarily the bleeding edge,” explained Rinaldo.

After the Henley shooting, Buffalo Common Council president Darius Pridgen questioned why the Buffalo Police Department had not purchased tasers. At the time, Pridgen said it was approved in the budget.

But according to Mayor Brown, the funding was removed because of budget shortfalls and COVID, the funding was no longer available for the purchase.

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Mayor Brown discusses reviewing the device for police.

“Funds were not actually allocated. We were authorize to allocate, but because of budgetary challenges we were facing and the start of covid funds were not actually allocated in the city budge,” Brown remarked.

Pridgen attended Monday’s demonstration and responded favorably to using the device saying he thinks it’s a “good tool” for police officers.

“What is so important is to find another way to deal with citizens other than the gun,” declared Pridgen.

Pridgen said he’s actually be researching the device for more than five months.

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Buffalo Common Council president Darius Pridgen.

“This does not — take away a life — including a taser, so I would still like to see a combination of the tasers and any other tools that we have out there for our police department,” replied Pridgen.

The police captain said he would like to see this as an added tool for officers,

“I could envision initially having a number of them out in the patrol force,” Rinaldo remarked.

But he said the department will examine the look the effectiveness of the device and will continue to research the use by other agencies,

“We know that Lockport has made a purchase of a number of these devices,” explained Rinaldo.

Both police and the mayor said they are exploring a number of possible tools, but no decision has been made at this time.

“This is not a done deal. This is just something we are looking at,” Mayor Brown said. “We wanted to make the public aware before any decisions were made that this is a device that we we are looking at and just another tool we are looking at in the Buffalo Police Department to make our policing model safer for the community and our police officers.”

According to Captain Rinaldo, the device cost about a thousand dollars a piece and there is a cost for each cartridge, but Rinaldo noted there is no reoccurring fee.

The city will work with the Common Council on a “menu of items” for non-lethal use on the streets.