Phoenix wants to take more time to research Long Range Acoustic Devices, sometimes called “sound cannons,” before making any decisions on whether to buy two of them.
The Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee was originally scheduled to discuss the Phoenix Police Department's LRAD purchase request on September 12.
The LRAD proposal was removed from the subcommittee agenda on Monday morning, City Council spokesperson Nickolas Valenzuela said. That morning, Phoenix New Times had published an article about the proposal, noting instances in which police departments have used a pain-inducing tone from LRADs to disperse protesters.
City council member Michael Nowakowski, who chairs the Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee, did not respond to a request for comment from New Times before the publication of that article. Nowakowski didn't return any messages on Tuesday, either. But Nowakowski denied, via Valenzuela, that inquires from New Times last week had anything to do with his decision to pull the agenda item on Monday morning.
"I am working closely with the Phoenix Police Department to gather information about the proposed Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD),” Nowakowski said, according to Valenzuela. "It is important that we clearly understand how this device will and will not be used."
Police Chief Jeri Williams has stated that the department intends to use the LRAD to communicate with large crowds, citing troubles during an anti-Trump rally last year.
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A spokesperson for the department on Monday said in an email that police would not rule out using the LRAD's pain-inducing tones to disperse crowds.
"The ability to send alert tones is secondary to our intended purpose, however, we will not rule out use of this feature if it will increase public safety," Mercedes Fortune, Phoenix police spokesperson, said on Tuesday. "When used as specified by the manufacturer, by properly trained personnel, the risk of injury is minimal. Of course, at all times, any risk is calculated and designed to improve public safety."
The LRAD-500x, the model that Phoenix police have requested to purchase, can produce sounds up to 152 decibels. Hearing loss can occur when humans are exposed to sounds above 90 decibels. Brief exposure to sounds above 140 decibels can cause permanent damage to unprotected ears.
A federal appeals court ruled in June that the use of LRADs, which can produce sounds capable of damaging human hearing, can constitute excessive force.