On the first day of the recent G-20 summit, Pittsburgh police unveiled the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, a sophisticated speaker system that can blast a clear, recorded dispersal order and be heard up to a quarter-mile away, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It also emits a high-pitched alarm sound that can drive even the most determined protesters to leave a scene. Video and audio footage of the LRAD in action has circulated on the Internet, and yesterday Pittsburgh police officials gave a demonstration of its capabilities to the media.
“This is a kinder and gentler way to get people to leave,” said Raymond DeMichiei of the city Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “From what I’ve seen, I think it worked well.” Witold Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union is investigating claims that at least one person suffered hearing loss after being exposed to the LRAD. Peter Shell, co-chair of the Thomas Merton Center’s antiwar committee, called it a “dangerous weapon.” The device’s shrill setting was mocked by Jon Stewart “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, as the “latest in anarchist-stopping technology.” The LRAD can exceed 150 decibels, the equivalent of “peak” rock music, firearms or a jet engine. Built by San Diego-based American Technology Corp., the LRAD is still a novelty among U.S. law enforcement agencies.