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Police say new speaker system used at Seattle protests is an LRAD Long Range Acoustic Device

The new LRAD speaker system can be seen in this image from Wednesday night’s protest response (Image: Renee Raketty/CHS)

Seattle Police has clarified that new public address hardware used this week during its response to protests on Capitol Hill is a system developed as a sound energy weapon but the department says its new Long Range Acoustic Device has been modified so it can not  broadcast “high-frequency warning tones.”

“The department recently purchased, commercially, an enhanced public announcement system to address crowd communication issues identified over the summer months,” a statement sent to CHS about the new speaker system reads. “The purchase of such a system was a recommendation of both the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of the Inspector General following complaints from protest groups that instructions provided by Seattle PD during previous demonstrations could not be heard due to the quality of previous public announcement systems the department had used.”


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CHS reported here on SPD’s announcement of new policies and tactics regarding its response to ongoing protests and demonstrations including what officials called “de-escalation” efforts and “new strategies to address individuals taking unlawful actions in otherwise lawful crowds.”

This week, CHS asked a SPD spokesperson about the new speaker after it was used to make announcements including loud apologies to the surrounding community for the disturbances during SPD’s response and arrest of demonstrators at the East Precinct on Halloween night. The SPD spokesperson told CHS that the speaker was not a weapon and would only be used for addressing crowds.

That is partly true. SPD on Thursday clarified the department is using the new LRAD-450XL system “in crowd control, public safety/dispersal order situations where information is being broadcast to clear an area, and to provide clear instructions on avenues of egress.”

“The system can also be utilized in natural disasters and mass casualty events to broadcast critical public safety information, and in barricaded suspect/hostage situations where communication is critical,” the SPD statement reads.

SPD says its system is not capable of being used as a sonic weapon:

The department understands that concerns were previously raised with respect to certain functionalities of the device to emit high-frequency warning tones. The department worked with Seattle IT and the vendor to remove that functionality. The devices procured and which will be used to meet specific recommendations of OPA and the OIG function solely to amplify public announcements in the circumstances stated above.

We’ve asked SPD for more information on what process is in place to restrict any possible restoration of the high-frequency capabilities. We’ve also asked for more information on the custom system’s cost. Earlier LRAD systems typically sell for around $20,000 a piece and are typically priced to sell in pairs.

San Diego-based manufacturer Genasys touts the 450XL as the “loudest, most intelligible AHD for its size & weight.”

The controversial systems have been the target of criticism in Portland where demonstrators have encountered the tech amid an expanding arsenal of military-style crowd control tools and tactics.

In Seattle, the speaker joins SPD’s Community Response Group’s arsenal as it is tasked with policing the city’s protests. SPD officers regularly have deployed pepper spray, blast balls and non-lethal rounds. A ban on crowd-control weapons remains tied up in federal court. Police have responded with larger numbers including multiple bike officers and trailing protest crowds with multiple police vehicles.

Wednesday night in the minutes before police rushed in to make arrests, SPD used its LRAD to address protesters outside the East Precinct and warn them to clear the area. One protester caught up in the rush and seen being piled on by police was rushed to Harborview and remains hospitalized.


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ianto
ianto
18 days ago

Yeah, that thing is no joke. I heard the police giving orders to protestors all the way down in my place on Bellevue so clearly I assumed they were a block away.

Jim
Jim
18 days ago

Looks like the loud speaker LRAD 300X. It’s not a weapon, it’s a loudspeaker for voice communication. LRAD does make other models designed to force people to leave the area with very loud annoying sirens. Keep in mind, this is being used to follow the ACLU guidelines to crowd dispersal. SPD is following ACLU guidelines.

https://www.aardvarktactical.com/products/lrad-300x-low-profile-communication-device

Aaron
Aaron
17 days ago
Reply to  Jim

You got the wrong model number.

SPD is using the IRAD 450 XL which has offensive weapon capability.

https://www.digitaltrends.com/news/what-is-lrad-sonic-cannon-explained/

Sonic weapons aren’t new. There were reports of some kind of sonic weapon used against Canadian and our embassy staff in places like Cuba which caused hearing loss and brain trauma.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/brain-trauma-suffered-by-u-s-diplomats-abroad-could-be-work-of-hostile-foreign-government-60-minutes-2019-09-01/

Reggie
Reggie
18 days ago

Great, another reason to move out this slowly devolving neighborhood. I live half a mile away and this thing has been keeping up my newborn.

Ray
Ray
17 days ago
Reply to  Reggie

Yes, please go! We’d like our crappy, queer, affordable neighborhood back.

mab
mab
17 days ago
Reply to  Ray

I’m confused. She’s understandably concerned the police noise is harming her baby. You are assuming she is straight and privileged. Non sequitur response. Glad she is speaking up and representing her experience.

CapitolHell
CapitolHell
17 days ago

Amplified sound is against the law! Pathetic listening to the police beg a bunch of losers to please behave. And knowing these spoiled brats won’t. Our city is so twisted we consider destruction and violence free speech.

G
G
17 days ago

This new “toy” of the police, having been forced to hear it, is sickening _because of_ the SDE attitude of the gal using it, and _the idea_ that the City is allowing this person to intrude on the lives of everyone within at least 3 blocks. Americans do not expect totalitarian tactics such as this person being allowed to, at-will, impose their stupidity and unprofessional attitude / tiny dictator syndrome on our ears. Everyone responsible for allowing this is anti-American, anti-Democracy, and against the freedoms the American people and military have fought for over hundreds of years. You responsible clearly dream of Robocops and apparently hire those who fantasize such cosplay. It is sickening, unwanted, family-unfriendly, and intolerable to intelligent Americans–whom inhabit CH, despite Fox’s false portrayal. It _rightly_ provokes protest.
City Council, take heed, this is the pepperbomb of audio and needs to be taken away from this irresponsible division. The use of this is a disgrace and the neighborhood is shocked that you are allowing its use. Send these suburban boys with their appallingly backward mentality back to their red-county homes. We. Expect. Better. than this assault on our neighborhood.

RWK
RWK
16 days ago

I think that this device is a sensible investment for the SPD, in spite of the paranoid comments here. Protesters have the right to be able to clearly hear any directives that the SPD issues, so they can make an informed decision about how to respond. Of course, the radical elements among them just ignore these directives, and claim “police brutality” when the police take action.