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Police are Using Sound Devices to Control Violent Crowds

The Long Range Acoustic Device, a hailing and audio broadcast tool, was developed as a direct result of the Oct. 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Terrorists on a small boat blew a large hole in the USS Cole, killing 17 and wounding 39 sailors aboard. After the attack, the U.S. Navy saw a need for a tool to communicate with and turn away or stop potential attackers from greater distances.

Navy ships equipped with the LRAD can effectively hail, inform, direct or warn the operators of boats that are in distress, engaging in illegal activity or whose actions potentially pose a threat on the high seas.

Local and state police departments are now using that same technology to control violent crowds.  In an article written by  Lt. Dan Marcou  he explains what the equipment is and how it can be used to limit the number of direct confrontations the police have to have with protesters and rioters.


An LRAD unit is primarily a communication device that does two things under very difficult circumstances: It allows officers first to communicate clearly from a safe distance, and if no compliance is achieved, the device can be used to give a warning to targeted individuals or a large group.

LRADs can be mounted on vehicles, BearCats, boats and helicopters. There is even a handheld unit. They have been used by law enforcement agencies at large demonstrations, tactical standoffs, active shooter events and natural disasters, allowing officers to communicate in a clear and concise manner over long distances to inform, direct and warn people.

A trained operator can transmit a pre-recorded message or speak live via the microphone. The LRAD transmits the message so that it can be understood through crowd noise and over great distances. The message can even be sent in the targeted group’s language or dialect.


The LRAD first gained national attention for law enforcement use in 2009 when the Pittsburgh Police Department used it during the demonstrations at the G-20 Summit. Chiefs, sheriffs and tactical team commanders all over the country took notice.

The LRAD has multiple tactical applications. It has been used in standoffs to establish and maintain communication with suspects. It has been used to warn endangered people if they are approaching active shooter events. This tool also has been deployed by police in Houston, Oakland, Dallas, Chicago and New York during large demonstrations and disturbances, as well as during the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.


LRADs have been used successfully by SWAT teams in standoffs, high-risk warrant arrests and while dealing with suicidal subjects. Crowd control units have used them to cut through the extremely loud noises generated during riots to inform, direct and de-escalate potential confrontations. For example, the Columbus (Ohio) Police Department acquired an LRAD unit for better crowd control after riots at Ohio State University.

The advantage of enhancing our communication capability in law enforcement is the decreased likelihood of use of force. When we are communicating, we are not fighting or shooting.

Tactical teams have crisis negotiators who have trained extensively to de-escalate situations, and an LRAD unit can support communication by these professionals in even more situations than previously possible.

Communications expert James Humes once said, “The art of communication is the art of leadership.” Leading law enforcement agencies are enabling their best communicators to resolve tough situations with their words to prevent property damage, injury and even loss of life.

H/T Police One

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