LRAD, Police Accountability, and Vancouver Magazine's Power Broker List: The David Eby Story Continues
On lasers, sonar and other tactics for crowd control:
Why would they introduce the LRAD?
“The VPD sound gun is about 24 inches in circumference. They said they bought it as a public announcement system. It focuses sound in a tube at a directed target. It is designed to focus noise at a ship that is coming towards you. It is not designed to spread an announcement out over a dispersed crowd, just the opposite.
It's bizarre. It's like we bought a laser to provide light in our living room.
You don't buy a laser to light up a room. Similarly, you don't buy the equivalent of a sound laser to talk to a crowd. You buy an actual public announcement system. You'd have to rotate the LRAD like a spotlight around a crowd. There's some great footage online that shows how directional it is.
It's the only sound system you can buy that has a weapon component to it and because of that it's about $10,000 more expensive than a regular public announcement system, and that cheaper system would do a better job of making public announcements.”
Editor's Note: The blogosphere has been full of comments about the VDP's purchase of the LRAD.
Blogger Squat The Planet had this to say about the LRAD:
I'm sure if you ever wanted to piss off a large group of people and agitate them to action, this must be the way. They say they just want to use it as a PA system, but we all know the cops have a tendency to abuse things like this. I'm sure there are some now deaf puppies running around very disoriented in the Lower East side of Vancouver as i type this.
Blogger Magme disagreed:
I don’t see any reason for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to get their panties in a bunch over this sound device unless anti-Olympic protests turn violent. It has been used in the past to notify boats in English Bay during the Celebration of Light, to get pirates off a cruise ship off the coast of Africa, and in September the Pittsburgh Police Department used it to break up angry protesters at a recent G20 summit. The results? Damn successful. If you’re planning to cause a scene during the Olympics, watch out for the LRAD 500X.
On collateral damage:
"You could argue at least the LRAD won't kill people, but in my mind we should have a higher standard than that."
How are the officers being trained? Are they receiving the weapon training or just the public address training? That issue has not been addressed - the training angle, the cost of the training.
Personally, I find it very upsetting that City Council is looking at cutting so many programs in a budget deficit year and the police are spending money on this hardware and training for a device that has a two week application, maybe.”
On unilateral decision-making:
"I think the more important issue is that the VPD seems limited only by their budget in what weapons they can buy. And it's an important question because this was how the Taser was introduced. You don't bring in a weapon and use it and have a discussion afterwards about safety and policing and efficacy. You do that before you buy the weapon. Especially when it's a $17,000 weapon with unknown training costs.
I got an email from the mayor's office that the police saw the purchase of the LRAD as an operational decision. As a result, the decision did not go to the Police Board or to City Council and the reports in the media were likely the first they [the mayor's office] heard of it.
I think that's very problematic. Apparently, the police in Vancouver can buy military-grade hardware untested in Canada for use on members of the public without taking it to any of the democratic institutions that regulate the police forces conduct.”
How did Eby find out about the LRAD?
“We were training the police on legal observing and we got into a free-flowing conversation at the end of it and they said, 'Do you have any questions?' I said, 'I've seen this LRAD in Pittsburg at the G20' and I asked if they had it. The VPD representative said, 'Yeah, yeah we've got one.' He said, 'How did they use it in Pittsburgh?' I said they used it to disperse the crowd. And he said, 'No. We would only use it as a public address system, to make sure nobody could say they didn’t hear our announcements.'
"I'm sure there was some political embarrassment for City Council that they didn't know about the LRAD, that buying military hardware for the police force was not brought forward to the mayor's office or Police Board. So I'm hopeful that now there may be some political will in knowing what the police have planned for 2010, so that City Hall isn’t caught off guard again."