The Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) is a powerful loudspeaker that can also emit a sirenlike noise at a volume of up to 152 decibels. According to national regulatory agencies, even seconds-long exposure to sound greater than 140 decibels brings risk of permanent hearing loss. Some people, like the demonstrators who heard it used by police officers this year at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, call the LRAD an acoustic weapon. A spokesman for its manufacturer, American Technology Corporation, calls it a "communication device." But all agree: It's loud.The LRAD has uses other than protest policing and crowd control. For example, it can be used to broadcast emergency information. In terms of protest policing, this is only the latest technology. Mounted water cannons and surveillance cameras have also been used to control public assemblies. The LRAD may be, as a spokesman says, more humane than rubber bullets. But like any other technology, it may be abused by officers on the scene. At its highest decibel level, the LRAD can cause permanent hearing loss. One hopes that it will not be used to suppress legitimate, non-violent public dissent and will not harm anyone engaging in these activities.
The LRAD has been on the market since 2003 and has been used by private companies and foreign governments, but it gained new attention this year when the Pittsburgh Police Department used it in what is believed to be the first public deployment of the siren in the United States. (The department says it did not turn the mechanism up to its highest volume.)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
NYT Year In Ideas: Protest Policing
The NYT published its 9th annual "Year in Ideas" issue. One item relating to public protest made the list: The Long Range Acoustic Device, a/k/a the "Sound Cannon." As noted in the magazine, the Sound Cannon has already been used during public protests: