It could be a scene out of a superhero movie: a fleeing car is lassoed by a police SUV and brought safely to a halt.
Leonard Stock of Arizona had just such a scenario in mind when he invented the Grappler Police Bumper, a device that will soon be tried out on five Cass County Sheriff’s vehicles.
Sheriff Jeff Weber said police pursuits can be dangerous for police and the public.
“This (device) allows me to stay behind the bad guy, even at low speeds, and hook these vehicles and bring them to a stop, and not worry about the public or the officer getting hurt,” he said.
The device, which has been used by police for nine months, is attached to the front of the police vehicle. It shoots a nylon rope net that wraps around the car’s back tire to force the vehicle being chased to stop. It only takes about five to eight seconds and has been successful in different landscapes, including urban areas, Stock said.
Cass County said its department will be the first in the Midwest to use the Grappler.
The sheriff’s office demonstrated the device on Friday in Independence. The demonstration used one of the department’s new Tahoes and Stock’s truck.
Stock said he thought of the idea after he saw a police chase on TV and was upset by the injuries and damage caused to vehicles. He said he created the device to make police chases safer. He said his truck has been used for demonstrations over 200 times and has minimal damage.
Ken Novak, a University of Missouri-Kansas City criminal justice professor, had not heard of the Grappler before Friday, but said he sees a similarity to the use of non-lethal weapons. Using pepper spray or tazers resulted in less lethal use of force, he said, but more non-lethal use of force.
The Cass County department had 37 pursuits in 2018 and 15 so far this year, Capt. Kevin Tieman said in an email.
The devices cost the sheriff’s office $5,000 each, Tieman said. That price includes installation and training.
Stock said there are limits to the device, such as distance and the type of car the device can be attached to. He said he outlines these limits to law enforcement.
Stock said it’s realistic that if the officer is properly trained and conditions are right, the device is 80 to 90 percent effective.
The U.S. Border Patrol first successfully used the Grappler in November 2018 near Calexico, California, NBC reported. Stock said there are eight agencies using the Grappler, and he is optimistic the number will increase.
© 2019 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
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