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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Safety of long-range acoustic device debated

Friday, October 9th, 2009

By Jeremy Boren


Before they unleashed bursts of ear-splitting sound to scatter rowdy protesters, city SWAT officers tested the Long Range Acoustic Device on themselves to see if it was safe.

No one went deaf.

Pittsburgh police said the first use of the LRAD to disperse protesters in the United States last week was a success, but demonstrators complained the loud, shrill noises the device emitted worsened a tense situation and raised the likelihood of violence.

"A large contingent of the SWAT officers got exposed to the sound (during tests). It went well," said Ray DeMichiei, the city's deputy director of Emergency Management.

No long-term studies have been done of the device's effects. However, the damage that loud sounds can cause is well studied, said Dr. Doug Chen, director of the division of neurotology at Allegheny General Hospital.

"It appears that this device can damage hearing, but in terms of the alternatives, it's probably safer than a Taser or a billy club," he said.

DeMichiei's department prepared a report before the Group of 20 summit on nonlethal technologies that would be useful in controlling huge crowds of protesters that, ultimately, didn't materialize. Officials estimated 5,000 protesters took to the streets during a peaceful Friday afternoon march.

At a cost of $200,000, city and county SWAT teams used federal Homeland Security money to buy four of the devices. DeMichiei said the technology is novel, but not dangerous.

To read more, visit the Tribune-Review web site



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