Vancouver Police Acquire LRAD Crowd Control Acoustic Weapon
Vancouver Police have acquired a Long-Range Acoustic Device (MRAD) for use in crowd control during the 2010 Olympics. The LRAD emits a high frequency noise that can disorient & injure people caught within its range. A LRAD was recently used during the G20 protests in Pittsgurgh. Vancouver cops claim the device is only to be used as a public address system... and any water cannons they purchase will only be used for watering lawns...
BCCLA uncovers VPD purchase of untested crowd control weapon for Olympics
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
November 10, 2009 - For immediate release
Vancouver, B.C. – A senior member of the Vancouver Police Department confirmed to the BCCLA late last week that the VPD has acquired an LRAD (Long Range Acoustical Device) crowd control weapon for the 2010 Olympics. He advised that the VPD would be using the device to ensure that police instructions were clearly heard. The LRAD sonic gun fires a concentrated beam of sound at its targets that can cause hearing damage and temporarily disrupt vision.
BCCLA President Robert Holmes pointed out that even as the Taser inquiry has not yet reported back, police are acquiring another high tech device that could be used to cause grievous pain. “This crowd control weapon was obtained without any public discussion and without any defined policy for its safe and proper use being set in advance. Tasers were also brought in through such an ill-considered and backwards approach.”
To the knowledge of the BCCLA, there have been no public discussions around the purchase and use of an LRAD in Vancouver or British Columbia, no Canadian safety testing of the device, no Canadian approval of the device’s use by any agency independent of Canada’s police services or the weapon manufacturer, and the device has never before been used in a protest scenario by police in Canada.
“On October 22, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said that ‘No extraordinary effort will be made to restrict protest because of the Olympics,’ but his force is buying new and untested weapons,” said Holmes. “A City Councillor said that we were out of line for noting the parallels with Beijing, but Vancouver joins China in embracing these devices. The secret purchase and implementation of the LRAD, in conjunction with Vancouver passing a bylaw that suppresses free expression, reduces the credibility of blandishments from city officials about not interfering with lawful and peaceful demonstrations.”
Robert Holmes, President, BCCLA (604) 681-1310 or (604) 838-6856
David Eby, Executive Director, BCCLA (778) 865-7997
TECHNICAL INFO & COUNTERING THE LRAD
What is the Long Range Acoustic Device?
The LRAD or the long range acoustic device that has been developed by American Technology Corporation is capable of emitting a maximum of 151Db sound within 30 degrees of where the device is pointing. This device can be used as a combatant deterrent weapon or crowd-control device by emitting sounds that are painful to the ears.
The LRAD weighs about 210 kilograms and is capable of emitting sound within a 15 to 30 degree beam. The range of the LRAD is 300 to 500 meters and, at maximum volume, it can emit sound 50 times greater than the human threshold for pain so it can cause permanent damage.
Sound Propagation Principles used by LRAD
Sound waves spread out in all directions as they travel through a medium and lose strength proportional to the distance from the source. High-frequency sound waves, however, spread out less than low-frequency sound waves. Moreover, sound waves with longer wavelengths travel a lot farther than those with short wavelengths. Sound waves can also either cancel each other out or merge together into a sound wave with higher amplitude depending on whether they are out of phase or not.
LRAD applies all the above mentioned properties of sound to make the device work.
The Technology behind the LRAD
Instead of the usual diaphragm that normal speakers use to make sound, the long range acoustic device uses a set of piezoelectric transducers which are capable of converting electrical energy into sound. These piezoelectric transducers are permanently polarized, so any distortion of the shape of such transducers creates an electrical impulse and vice-versa. By using a power source to supply this electrical impulse, piezoelectric transducers can rapidly change their shape, therefore, creating sound waves in the process. The transducers are also arranged so that they are in phase with each other so that the resulting sounds they emit can combine to make the projected sounds louder.
The sound that the LRAD produces can be directed so there's less-than-normal dispersion. This results in a 20-dB drop in the volume of sound 15 degrees outside the beam. This directional sound propagation stems from the fact that the LRAD employs outer and inner transducers in creating sound waves that are not completely in phase with each other. This enables other sound waves to cancel out those that are in the outermost portion of the beam. The resulting wave front of the sound is also flatter than usual, preventing the sound from being dispersed as it propagates. Moreover, as the LRAD-produced sound waves interact with the air, they create additional frequencies within the wave and thus amplify the sound and pitch.
Advantages and Disadvantages of LRAD
The primary advantage in military and law enforcement circles is that the LRAD is a less than lethal solution that has the potential to prevent antagonists from continuing their unwanted activities, without endangering the friendly personnel.
The major disadvantages of the LRAD system are:
The loud sounds the LRAD emits may cause permanent hearing damage to those within its range. The LRAD sound wave can be cancelled altogether through the use of common earplugs. The better the earplugs are at blocking sound waves, the less effective the LRAD is. Sounds emitted from the LRAD can be reflected back to the source by using a flat solid object.
Vancouver police to use noise device for crowd control
VPD insists the long-range acoustic device is not a 'sonic gun'
By Lora Grindlay, The Province, November 10, 2009
The Vancouver Police Department has purchased a sonic gun for crowd control in time for the 2010 Olympics, claims the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
But police took exception Tuesday to using the term "gun" to describe the department's recently purchased Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).
Vancouver Police Const. Lindsey Houghton said the acoustic device will assist police in communicating to large groups. Its range is up to over 300 metres on land.
He called it “a more effective public-address system” than handheld, battery-operated megaphones, which are rendered useless when there is a lot of crowd noise.
Houghton said the $17,000 unit, bought used in October, will be primarily used in the event of an emergency situation like a natural disaster or an earthquake. Vancouver police used a demonstration model to communicate instructions to hundreds of boaters in English Bay during the Celebration of Lights fireworks display this summer.
"Any suggestions that this device will be used as a weapon or characterizations of it as a 'sonic gun' are ridiculous. As you can see it looks nothing like a gun,” said Houghton as he held the machine at a press conference Tuesday.
"We are using it as a speaker.”
In a comment that appeared to be aimed at the civil liberties group, Houghton said: “Those who wish to cause fear or to rally others to their cause — it’s unfortunate that they are using the purchase of this public-address system to do so.”
Houghton admitted the machine has the capacity of sending out a “pulse-like noise” at adjustable volumes of up to 150 decibels, and he couldn’t rule out police using it as a crowd-control measure — which is how the LRAD is marketed by the manufacturer.
"The function is available if the situation arose," he said. “It’s like anything. We carry firearms, we can’t rule out the use of those firearms to stop a threat. We possess tear gas. We could use that in a situation where there is a riot and we have the grounds and the backing of law to use that. This is no different."
According to the American Technology Corporation website — the company that produces the LRAD — the device is "a high-intensity directional acoustic array designed for long-range communication and unmistakable warning."
The LRAD can project a voice more than one kilometre and follow up with a piercing noise or "warning tone" of 151 decibels at one metre away and 90 dB at 300 metres.
“This crowd control weapon was obtained without any public discussion and without any defined policy for its safe and proper use being set in advance," claimed BCCLA president Robert Holmes in a release.
"Tasers were also brought in through such an ill-considered and backwards approach.”
The LRAD has been used by the U.S. military and navy and to control birds.
UPDATE: On Nov. 17, 2009, Vancouver Police announced they were disabling the acoustic weapon capability of the LRAD due to the public concern raised, in particular that no review of the weapon has occurred.