Colorado State Patrol can lasso your vehicle to a stop mid-drive with the ‘Grappler.’ Here’s how it works

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10min 37sec
Courtesy of Grappler Police Bumper
A deployed grappler from a law enforcement vehicle to a fleeing vehicle during a training exercise. Colorado State Patrol use this webbing to catch suspect vehicles on the road.

It's like something out of Spider-Man. A device called the Grappler Police Bumper shoots webbing at a fleeing vehicle to bring it to a quick stop. The Colorado State Patrol has been testing it for several years, but only recently started promoting it.

Once a specially-trained trooper deploys the netting, “it just kind of unfolds and slips up under the wheel of the vehicle that we want to get stopped,” Sergeant Patrick Rice explained.

“Then it wraps around that wheel and just locks onto it. At that point, we can hit the brakes and bring that car to a controlled, slow stop.”

According to the state patrol, there are 24 of these bumpers around Colorado, with 75 successful interceptions since 2021. The inventor, Leonard Stark, said he dreamed up the Grappler after watching a series of calamitous police chases on television.

“Within a week, Leonard welded a contraption on the front of his truck and convinced his wife Frances to drive the getaway car... the family Suburban,” according to the manufacturer’s website.

For Colorado Wonders, Sgt. Rice answered listener questions about how Colorado State Patrol uses the system.

Is this meant to prevent a high-speed chase?

Absolutely. 100%. This is used on vehicles that either already have run from us or we know– based on intel – that they are going to run from us. Auto thieves beware. This is a big tool that we are using to stop auto theft and then, of course, violent felony crimes, crimes against a person where somebody's been hurt, injured, killed.

I gather this is an alternative, as well, to a PIT maneuver – precision immobilization technique– basically a cop forcing the driver to turn sideways abruptly, lose control, and stop.

The Colorado State Patrol does not use the PIT maneuver. Call it semantics if you'd like, but there are some small differences between the PIT maneuver and what we call the TVI, tactical vehicle intervention. The TVI is a PIT maneuver if you are watching it on the evening news, but there are some differences. We still use the TVI to spin vehicles and bring them to a stop. This is just another tool.

In videos, troopers were behind a vehicle stopped at a light. The light turns green, the suspect accelerates, then is thwarted past the intersection. Why not deploy at the red light? Is it because the tire has to be moving for the Grappler to connect?

Yeah. That back wheel has to be spinning in order to capture the Grappler.

It looks like it would cause serious damage to the car.

Surprisingly, it does not. Of course, there is potential for that, but out of all the grapplings we have done, and that have been done across the country, there is extremely limited damage to the vehicles. They are able to drive away afterwards most of the time. At the end of the day, damage to property is not our biggest concern. It is stopping a dangerous and violent individual, and getting them off the streets.

What happens when the driver sees the mechanism being deployed? What stops them from flooring it once they see that rack lower down?

Most of the time, they do not ever see it coming. We are pretty good at deploying them and they are pretty shocked when they realize that they are wrapped up.

Have a question or curiosity about the Centennial State? Ask us, and we may answer your question in Colorado Wonders.

How many times have people been mistakenly stopped with the Grappler?

I am sure it has happened somewhere in the country. I have never heard of it myself. Typically, when we are going to grapple a vehicle, we have pretty good information that this is the correct vehicle and the right time for this. We are not doing this on speeders, or people who failed to use their turn signal or their tags are expired. These are on violent offenders and auto thieves that already have shown a flagrant disregard for life.

What might the future look like? One listener suspects police will just get approval to have the car’s operating system lock the doors and pull over.

I am very big on people's rights, and the police should not be out there just locking people's cars down. We need to meet certain standards. We need to use judges. We need to get approval for warrants. I kind of hope that we never do reach a point where we have the ability – all on our own – to flip a switch and shut down a suspect’s car.

Courtesy of Grappler Police Bumper
A deployed grappler attached to a law enforcement vehicle during a training exercise.