Police claim long-range hailing system kept low
Pittsburgh police stuck to the lowest volume setting on a long-range hailing system they used to order protesters to disperse during the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, SWAT team officers said during a demonstration of the device this week.
Known as the Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, police officers turned the highly focused loudspeaker on a group of reporters and television cameras gathered in the police headquarters parking lot for a demonstration.
“There’s some misnomers in the media right now that this device here is somehow a sonic cannon, intended to hurt people,” said SWAT Officer Steve Mescan, a city police officer for 15 years.
“It’s actually a speaker that delivers an intended message to an intended group of people to disperse an area.”
The LRAD has three volume levels: green, yellow and red. Mescan said police have been trained to not increase the volume beyond the safe, green level.
“We always stay in the green area,” he said.
Police can program the LRAD to broadcast high-pitched warble repeatedly. The voice that people hear is computerized. It can make announcements in Spanish and other languages.
City officials originally pegged the cost of buying four of the devices with a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant at roughly $200,000.
Ray DeMichiei, city deputy director of emergency services, however, put the cost at $101,000.
City and county SWAT teams will each get two LRADs.
One will remain in the city’s Ballistic Engineered Armored Response vehicle – better known as the BEAR – for use during protests and standoff situations, Mescan said.
The device can be mounted atop the BEAR. From there, it sends out a loud stream of sound 30 degrees wide.
It is effective to roughly 330 yards, but can be heard at greater distances. Police bought the devices to deal with protesters during the G-20 summit, but they will have other uses.
Police used it yesterday to order residents of Saranac Street in Beechview to stay in their homes during a standoff with a gunman who killed himself.
Before the G-20, police used the LRAD to order a man holed up in a home in Beltzhoover to surrender, Mescan said.