Monday, September 28, 2009

Safe to put acoustic weapons in police hands?

A Jotman reader writes:
You asked in your recent blog entry on sonic "crowd control" devices: "Are they safe? Do they cause long term damage? I doubt anyone knows for sure..."

The former vice-president of the company that designed those devices, Mr. Carl Gruenler "...concedes that the device is powerful enough to cause permanent auditory damage, but that it is only meant to be used for a few seconds at a time." (quoted from Wiki). I especially like the phrase "meant to be used." 

Interesting that the military person standing next to a LRAD on a US Navy ship (photo in the Wiki article) is wearing earmuffs - so there is at least some sort of protection.
 If properly trained people who really understood the technology were going to be operating these machines, that would be one thing.  But police tend to lack such training.  NPR reported:
Boston police recently shot and killed a local college student with a "pepper pellet" gun. The weapon is meant to be a non-lethal means of stopping a suspect. A government probe found the lack of national standards and training for non-lethal weapons contributed to her death.
Training may not be the answer.  First, people need to ask themselves whether devices that could easily deter peaceful citizens from taking to the streets in protest have any place in a free society. 

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