AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Public Safety Commission, which meets the first Monday of every month, discussed the Austin Police Department’s (APD) protest policies.
There was a particular focus on long-range acoustic devices, also knowns as LRADs.
According to our previous reporting, LRADs were initially invented for communication between naval ships. Now, police departments use the devices as alarms to peacefully disperse crowds.
APD says it used an LRAD device during the May 2020 racial injustice protests to direct people off of Interstate 35.
A sound engineer we spoke with shortly after those protests said if you’re too close to one of those devices for too long as it’s sounding off, you could suffer hearing damage.
“We do not use them as weapons,” said Commander Corey Wrobleski with APD as commissioners asked questions about how the device is used. Below is an excerpt regarding LRADs from APD’s latest general orders.
The LRAD shall not be used as a sonic weapon or a method of pain compliance. The LRAD shall only be used as a public announcement system to broadcast audible notifications and warnings over distance. The LRAD will be used only at decibel levels and frequencies that are safe for the intended purpose and that are not reasonably likely to intend or cause injury.APD General Orders
Commissioners brought up concerns about how APD makes sure officers use the devices safely.
Additionally, Kevin Welch, the president of The Austin Electronic Frontier Foundation, asked if APD audited the use of LRADs.
“I’m concerned that people could not get out of the way of the LRAD, so I want to understand what is being done to prevent this,” he said.
“Someone has to be trained prior to use,” said Wrobleski. “You can’t just put any old random officer behind the device. There needs to be training. The equipment is tested before its use. The device is only used for communication.”
APD banned the use of less-lethal bean bag rounds after the May 2020 protests.
Some of the officers indicted on assault charges stemming from their actions during those protests sued the City of Austin, claiming they did not receive proper training with the bean bag rounds.
The Public Safety Commission will continue its discussion on LRADs during its next meeting in September.