‘Acoustic authority’: ban/restrict the use of sound cannons 

 

What is a sound cannon/LRAD? 

A ‘sound cannon’ or Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) is a device which can be used by law enforcement authorities to broadcast messages.  

LRADs are optimised to the primary human hearing range of between 1 – 5 kilohertz and can transmit sound 360° to cover an area uniformly. 

LRADs can be used to emit ear-piercing, pain-inducing and hearing-damaging sirens that can be heard as far as 1.5 kilometres away. 

Created for the U.S. military after the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, LRADs were designed as acoustic weapons meant to repel anyone exposed to them. By emitting sound at an almost-intolerable amplitude, they force people in the device's path to flee. 

An LRAD looks like a large black speaker or satellite dish and can be mounted to a police vehicle. 

Over 60 countries worldwide have LRADs, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Poland. 

 

Why should LRADs be banned or restricted? 

Safe noise exposure guidelines vary however sound over 100 dB (decibels) can cause hearing loss over the course of minutes and at 120-130 dB sound begins to produce a pain response. Sound over 140 dB can cause near-immediate hearing damage. 

LRADs used by law enforcement can produce sound in excess of 150 dB (some measure as high as 162 dB). This level is usually considered enough to burst your eardrums.  

For comparison, a normal conversation is approximately 60 dB while a lawn mower can reach 90-100 dB.  

LRADs are marketed as communications devices. While they can be used by police as powerful megaphones to instruct a crowd, LRADs can also be deployed as sonic weapons to disperse crowds. 

Police departments have a history of misusing LRADs as a means of dispersing protestors, for example, in New York, the Philippines and at a previous BLM protest in Pennsylvania in 2014.  

People exposed to LRADs have reported suffering physical injuries such as ear pain, hearing loss and nerve damage as well as prolonged migraines, disorientation and vertigo. 

Various human rights and advocacy organisations including Amnesty International have raised concerns over the use of these sonic devices by authorities in inflicting pain as they raise questions about their legality under international humanitarian law. 

While different jurisdictions regulate LRADs differently, injured plaintiffs have continued to bring claims to court asserting violations of their human and constitutional rights as well as health and safety and police regulations. 

In 2018, a US federal court determined using LRADs improperly could constitute excessive force. 

 

What now?

LRADs are being deployed again in response to current BLM protests across America and have been reported recently in Portland and Austin. 

Peaceful protestors or even unrelated bystanders cannot choose whether or not to be affected by a sound cannon deployed in the vicinity. 

Do we really want sound to be weaponised against human beings with potentially serious and lasting health implications? 

Respective governments should ban/restrict the use of LRADs: 

  • Law enforcement authorities should only be permitted to use LRADs as a verbal communications device and at safe levels. 
  • Law enforcement authorities should publish their guidelines which outline their use of LRADs in conformance with industry standards, manufacturer’s directions and cautions. 

Please be aware that these devices are being deployed by law enforcement authorities and consider carrying suitable ear protection if you attend a protest. 

If you agree the use of LRADs should be banned/restricted, please sign this petition and pass it on!

 

Sources 

https://www.euronews.com/2019/05/23/plug-your-ears-run-nypd-s-use-sound-cannons-challenged-n1008916
https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/175996-can-a-loud-enough-sound-kill-you  
https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article243324761.html 
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/g20-sound-cannons-won-t-be-weapons-police-1.909855 
https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/2/13/sonic-devices-demand-greater-research 
https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/sound-as-control/7280526 
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-19/philippine-police-clash-with-protesters-outside-apec-summit/6956472 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18042528 
https://genasys.com/products/public-safety/goverments-federal-state/ 
https://www.dsei.co.uk/exhibitors/lrad 
https://www.rferl.org/a/explainer-lrad-sound-cannon/24927845.html 
https://www.businessinsider.com/lrad-to-be-security-device-during-london-olympics-2012-5?r=US&IR=T 
https://www.federalresources.com/product/1000xi/ 
https://daiglelawgroup.com/edrei-v-bratton-lrad-used-for-crowd-control/ 
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents

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