COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus police unveiled a new, high-tech audio device Monday which they plan to use for crowd control. The LRAD, or Long Range Acoustic Device has the ability to clearly broadcast messages with a range of 1.8 miles.
The device can be used by SWAT for barricaded suspects or to communicate with citizens in the event of an emergency. But it’s most likely use will be to communicate with crowds.
In January of 2015, after the Ohio State University football team defeated Oregon for the national championship, hundreds of rowdy fans poured out of the bars and started to celebrate on High Street.
The police made announcements to the crowd to disperse but ultimately used tear gas and pepper spray to break things up.
Some students later complained they could not hear or understand the police announcements. Deputy Chief Thomas Quinlan says this new audio system will eliminate that possibility. “This allows us to ensure that… if we do make an arrest, they can’t say ‘I didn’t know what you wanted me to do’ because we’ll have on videotape very clear announcements being given with what they were supposed to do,” Quinlan said.
Columbus SWAT Commander, Lt. Paul Ohl said better communication makes for better problem solving. “So if we have a means of extending or expanding our level of communication with our citizens or suspects,
“It’s obviously a win for us,” Ohl said.
Ohl said the LRAD can also broadcast an ear splitting tone that will encourage crowds to disperse. “It’s what I would refer to as an annoying rhythmic or pulsating type tone that is not comfortable to stay around,” Ohl said.
Deputy Chief Quinlan said the hope is to avoid the need to resort to force or tear gas. “We want people to listen to our instruction and move along so they don’t get caught up in when we use chemical agents they don’t get caught up in the residual gases in the area,” Quinlan said.
The police department used a Homeland Security grant to purchase the $40,000 LRAD system.