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Violent protesters attack a Toronto Police cruiser  (Source: CTV)

LRAD 100X

The LRAD 1000X  (Source: US Navy)
U.S. military also adopting non-lethal technologies

The damage inflicted by a relatively small group of violent rioters has shocked residents of Canada's largest city. Images of burning police cars and smashed storefronts have been picked up by media networks across the globe. The violence has overshadowed messages from peaceful protesters at the G20 summit this weekend.

The problem lies primarily with violent "professional protesters", so-called because they travel around the world protesting their cause as their primary occupation.

"These criminals rely on the anonymity of hiding in a larger group of the curious and the naive," said Bill Blair, Toronto's Chief of Police.

Separating the criminals from the mob before it turns violent has long been a goal of police forces. Non-lethal solutions are preferred, and now a new method will join the traditional crowd dispersal tools such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bag shots.

Toronto Police have acquired several Long Range Acoustical Devices (LRADs), known informally as "sound cannons". The handheld LRAD 100X can emit up to 136 dB of sound continuously and feature an "alert" function that emits a high pitched beeping sound that could potentially be used as weapons.

This had led the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to successfully seek an injunction preventing the LRAD's use for most of the G20 summit.

"I have concluded that a very real likelihood exists that demonstrators may suffer damage to their hearing from the proposed use of the Alert function at certain distances and volumes," Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown wrote in a ruling on Friday, which happened to coincide with a rise in violence.

It was only when Toronto Police agreed to severely neutered terms that the injunction was lifted. The alert function can only be used to advise that an announcement is coming and should last no more than five seconds. There must be at least 30 seconds between alerts, and at least 75 meters of open space before the alert function is activated.

Preparations for the G20 summit including the construction of a security fence around the city's financial district and the mobilization of Federal, Provincial, and municipal police forces. Hundreds of soldiers and private security personnel were also placed on standby in case of a terrorist incident, leading to a $1.1 billion tab for the G20 summit and the G8 leader's summit in nearby Huntsville.

LRADs might not get tested at Toronto's G20 summit, but police and military forces are preparing to use them as well. The United State Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has already ordered the LRAD 100X and the LRAD 300X, a larger version meant to be mounted on vehicles.  It has a range beyond 1500 meters (almost a mile) and will be deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has ordered the LRAD 1000X as part of its Shipboard Protection System from the LRAD Corporation. Currently, warning shots are fired by ships to warn off potentially hostile vessels, but that could escalate a situation and could accidentally trigger an armed conflict.

The LRAD 1000X provides a highly directional broadcast that can achieve sound projection and penetration beyond 3,000 meters (nearly two miles). Ships can use voice commands and deterrent tones in case the potentially hostile force doesn't understand English. Standoff and safety zones can be created, with increasing amounts of sound the closer a vessel gets to the ship. This will enable military forces to determine the intent of potential threats at safe distances, providing time and distance to employ a measured response to a threat’s actions and potentially preventing the use of deadly force.

Civilian shipping companies have also adopted the technology. The M/V Maersk Alabama used LRADs to successfully deter a Somalian pirate attack in November.





"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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