Police pursuits kill hundreds of people a year, most of them innocent bystanders. This shocking statistic drove an Arizona inventor named Leonard Stock to find a way of reducing the danger of high-speed pursuits by bringing them to a quick and painless end. His invention, called the Grappler Bumper, seems to be a simple and elegant solution.
"The options right now are getting in front of a suspect vehicle to deploy tire spikes or using the pit maneuver or some type of smash up derby style process to stop a vehicle and the officer many times is pinned against a suspect vehicle," Stock told FOX 10.
The Grappler uses a net made of broad, heavy-duty nylon webbing connected to an articulated steel frame that attaches to a police vehicle's front bumper. In a chase, an officer lowers the net to nearly level with the road, pulls up behind the fleeing suspect, and allows the rear wheel of the fleeing car to catch the net. Almost immediately the net tangles the wheel up, bringing the car to a controlled stop. Once the wheel is entangled, the officer then has the option of keeping the net tethered to his vehicle or releasing it and letting the captured vehicle stop on its own. Stock told FOX 10 that the idea came to him in the middle of the night after watching a show about high-speed chases.
"The conclusion of one of the chases was an innocent motorist getting t-boned and I went to sleep that night just so aggravated that this was happening," Stock told the station. "And I woke up at 3:00 in the morning just suddenly and this was the first thought I had."
Video shot by FOX 10 shows the Grappler stopping various vehicles, including a pickup truck towing a trailer, in simulated high-speed pursuits. In each case, the Grappler stopped the suspect vehicle within seconds.
"Being able to end a pursuit in a much more controlled fashion has huge value for law enforcement and for the safety of the community as a whole," Lon Bartel, the President of the Peoria, Arizona Police Officers Association, told FOX 10. "His concept is absolutely fantastic. If that thing holds up the way it appears it's going to be a huge advantage for law enforcement."
Stock told FOX 10 that if his invention saves even a single innocent life, it was well worth the investment of time and money he's made building it.