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Chicago Police Demonstrate LRAD

By aaroncynic in News on May 15, 2012 2:00PM

Chicago Police gave a demonstration of the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) unit to ABC7 yesterday, a “less than lethal” crowd control device which CPD says it will use for “communication purposes.” The city purchased two of the devices at $20,000 each. Sergeant Chris Bielfeldt said the LRAD would be used as a “messaging device.” “We're able to broadcast over a great distance. It's clearly understood. There's no miscommunication. It's more effective than using a bullhorn,” he added.

The LRAD has 13 prerecorded messages with police directives, and the operator can also give live orders. In addition to this, however, the unit can also emit a tone that can incapacitate anyone within a thousand feet of the targeted direction. LRADs were first used by the military and have been used in conflicts with pirates. The weapon was first used on protesters in the United States at the 2009 G20 summit protests in Pittsburgh.

While Biefleldt told ABC police will not use the alarm tone, the device is a cause for concern for anyone who might be in its path. Former Seattle Police chief Norm Stamper, who resigned after the department was condemned for its handling of the WTO protests in 1999, told Salon “I’m not a fan. And it’s not just because I suffer from tinnitus. Everyone, without ear protection, is at risk for permanent hearing damage.” Vic Walczak, who represents a woman suing the Pittsburgh Police after suffering hearing damage during the G20 demonstrations told The Guardian the device is “more dangerous than a Taser” and “shouldn't be used outside the battlefield.”

Chicago police plan to have the LRAD on stand-by on Sunday when one of the largest marches against NATO arrives at Michigan and Cermak.