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Allies for Black Justice: City of Buffalo should not purchase BolaWraps

The group gathered outside Buffalo City Hall to voice their concerns over the non-lethal tool.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A group called the Allies for Black Justice gathered outside Buffalo City Hall Friday morning to let the City of Buffalo know it shouldn't even consider purchasing a non-lethal tool known as BolaWraps.

"This is a step in the wrong direction. Non-lethal is not non-harmful, and we very much believe that we should be using counselors, not cops, especially when it comes to responding to mental health crisis," said Eve Shippens of Allies for Black Justice.

BolaWraps are a tool with a cord and fishhooks to restrain a person around their waist or knees. 

A few weeks ago, the city announced they were looking into the non-lethal tool. Mayor Brown says the city is still doing research on the device and is seeing mixed results.

He adds the city is also working with Endeavor Health to start up a behavioral health team that will assist on mental health calls. 

"It's interesting to me to think that social workers would be the solution when in reality, it's just a band-aid to what we know is an inherently racist system and when we look at law enforcement, that's what we have," said Kathryn Franco, a licensed social worker.

However, Mayor Brown says it's the best practice supported by mental health professionals. 

"They will take the lead. They will encounter some individuals who are in some distress or some crisis and if the situation becomes violent and they cannot handle it, then police are there to keep everyone safe," Brown said. 

Members of the Allies for Black Justice say they want Daniel's Law to be ratified, which would prevent police officers from responding to mental health calls. 

Though Mayor Brown says he doesn't believe it's a solution to the problem. 

"I don't think it's realistic. Often it is mental health professionals in the field, social workers in the field, psychiatrists in the field that are actually the first responders to these individuals who then call police when situations become violent and more assistance is needed," Brown said. 

He plans to announce the non-lethal tools the city will purchase next week, alongside Common Council President Darius Pridgen. 

Credit: WGRZ
Mayor Byron Brown