By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
An autopsy showed that DuBose had alcohol, cocaine and ecstasy in his system and that he was killed by the gunshots, not the OPNs. But a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed by the family questioned the amount of training the officers had been given in the use of the OPNs and claimed that poor training had increased the chances of the confrontation turning deadly. A jury cleared the officers and the department of wrongdoing in 2003, but in San Diego, once Orcutt's biggest market, the weapon took another blow from all the publicity.
The Denver Sheriff Department made the OPN standard-issue in 1990, and it's proved invaluable ever since, according to Bill Lovingier, director of corrections. "It puts a handle on a bag of cement," he says. "It's very difficult and awkward, but this really closes that gap. It's an effective tool for pain compliance without causing significant injury, really no matter where it's applied."
Once a captain at the county jail, Lovingier remembers a time when two inmates were fighting. "They were really bear-hugging at some point, but they're trying to strike each other laying on the floor," he says. "I applied it to an individual's leg and pulled back, and he couldn't get away quick enough from the other guy."
The Denver Police Department finally adopted the OPN in 2000 after several years of lobbying by Captain Eric Rubin, who runs the city's police academy. "It has the ability to put a very quick end to an altercation," he says. "We don't want to have a prolonged fight with someone." He estimates that more than 150 officers have opted to go through the training required to carry the tool, though not all of them ultimately chose to use the nunchaku, since it comes with continuous training requirements. Over the last seven years, Denver sheriff and police officers have filled out 262 use-of-force reports for incidents involving an OPN. But Richard Rosenthal, director of the Office of Independent Monitor, who oversees any complaints filed by citizens, says he's not aware of "single sustained complaint against an officer or deputy for use of that instrument."
The OPN was among the tools that the DPD and other agencies planned to use to handle the 50,000 protesters rumored to be coming to Denver for the Democratic National Convention last August. The DPD pulled in Orcutt to train officers on how to use the OPN to control passive demonstrators; he spent a week offering several trainings each day. "Not every police officer gravitates to this device immediately," he explains. The main focus of the training involved the possibility that protesters would link arms to create blockades that would stop traffic. Orcutt had the officers sit on the ground and instructed them to do everything possible to not get pulled apart. Then Orcutt came in, slipped one end of an OPN around an arm or leg and quickly disassembled the group, officer by officer.
But the overflowing mass of demonstrators predicted by protest groups failed to materialize, and the glut of officers on the streets were already loaded with shields, batons and chemical sprays. No one needed to use an OPN, and there were no front-page photos giving Orcutt's invention free advertising.
Orcutt is hoping to retire from the force soon, at which point he can devote himself to promoting his nunchaku full-time. And if Maloney has his way, some of Orcutt's OPN promotion will take place from the witness stand while building his case for the Supreme Court. "There's no Bruce Lee 360 spins, curls or figure eights with these," Orcutt says. "If Sonia Sotomayor could see a demonstration of this weapon from someone like me, I think she might have a different opinion about how nunchaku can be used."
His favorite demonstration involves having a person lying face-down on the ground, trying to fight being handcuffed. The person is not a threat, Orcutt points out, "so you can't strike them. And you can't taser them. With the OPN, I won't touch you. I won't hit you. But I will get your arm."