WMPD embracing crime-fighting technology
Drones, Bola Wrap could be the future of West Memphis law enforcement
By JOHN RECH
West Memphis Police Chief Michael Pope took the opportunity of the July Police Commission meeting to announce plans to advance department technology. He said the two new tools would help investigators and patrol officers. Pope pitched the purchase of sophisticated tech-equipped drones costing as much as $10,000 to coordinate communication during police raids and assisting search and rescue efforts with infrared and video technology.
Pope’s power point presentation included an indoor live flyover of Sgt. Darryl Hayes’ personal drone. The chief said the city used Hayes’ personal drones in two police operations. He asked that one operation not be mentioned in the media, but Councilwoman Lorraine Mohammed mentioned it on the world wide web anyway during the commission report to city council on Facebook Live.
Mohammed said the drone was used to coordinate a SWAT raid during Operation Stars and Bars. According to Pope, SWAT operators enjoyed the birds eye view locating the exact positions of lookouts as the tactical team moved in to execute warrants at a drug house complained about by neighbors. The drone flew 200 feet overhead cancelling its noise while still providing a great video feed. Hayes communicated to SWAT the suspect locations in real time and verified the bad guys were at home. Pope said the drone delivered an element of surprise.
“They looked out, but they didn’t look up,” said Pope.
The slide show also included still photos during the aftermath of a shooting at the Courtyard housing project where more than 500 people reside. Interestingly, while asking for drone funding the Chief’s presentation relied solely on Sky Cop pictures from two cameras watching the complex. City Council unaware, never saw any drone footage.
See TECHNOLOGY, page A3
West Memphis Police showed off one of tis two newly marked Drone Response Unit vehicles to city council members to their final meeting in July. Soon city owned drones will become part of normal patrol and investigation efforts. The police chief told alderman drones cost $10,000 each.
Photo by John Rech TECHNOLOGY
From page A1
“I think its worth its weight in gold,” said City Treasurer and former deputy James Pulliaum. “When you have wooded areas you need that drone, it comes in handy. I can talk from first hand experience when I worked at the Sheriff Office, we did not have all that.”
“With the Shelby County Sheriff office, I’ve been out in the woods trying to find somebody and then go back and find officers because they got lost,” said Pope. “As we get new vehicles we will put numbers on the roof, so as an identifier for law enforcement and also helps us if they get stuck or lost to locate them.”
The police department moved ahead with plans before city aldermen heard the request to buy drones. Pope told the council members he had met with the mayor and ordered two police Tahoe’s wrapped in full body decals designating the Drone Response Unit. He wanted one drone for outdoor surveillance and search and rescue. He wanted a smaller drone that could fly inside a house or building to provide robot eyes on suspects.
“The drone has many, many, many uses for law enforcement,” said Pope. “I have been in contact with the mayor, so we are going to get one now and get a bigger better, more expensive one later.”
Pope also pitched a Bola Wrap brand device to city council. The new tool launches a cord that wraps up belligerent subjects before a Taser would become needed. The chief said the gadget would reduce exposure to possible litigation from those injured from a taser. He indicated national police brutality stories changed the way police must operate. The Bolo Wrap may be worn on an officer’s utility belt. It’s about the size of a cell phone. As with the drones, Pope moved onto a commitment to Bola Wrap before city council heard the request. With the mayor’s permission he scheduled and conducted an introductory session including Bola Wrap trainers for a practical instructions and hands on testing of the devise for senior officers and department trainers.
“This new tool helps detain and restrain the an individual,” said Pope. “As we move into this new age of policing, I want to get buy-in from the council. I want you all to see live footage and action to see why we need these tools. So I brought in Bola Wrap this morning. Is that all right?”
Bola Wrap devices cost $900 each and have been deployed in 540 police departments nationwide and in Great Brittan. The wrap at ten feet binds an individual as quick as the gadget pops off. Police use them to restrain those threatening suicide or those that become belligerent with police commands. The devise launches a quick flying twine that wrap up a person’s arms and trunk or legs.
“Whatever target the subject give you,” said Pope.
Pope asked the councilmen commissioners to consider using money already designated to acquiring body cameras to and reallocate other police funds for the two new tools.
“I think its worth its weight in gold, When you have wooded areas you need that drone, it comes in handy. I can talk from first hand experience when I worked at the Sheriff Office, we did not have all that.”
City Treasurer and former deputy