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Phoenix police pick up approval, $95K for long-range, crowd-control speakers

A mounted version of the LRAD 500X. (LRAD Photo)

PHOENIX – Police in Phoenix will be using long-range hailing devices they said will help them with crowd control and instruction during emergency situations.

The City Council approved a $95,000 expenditure for two LRAD-500X systems. The loudspeakers will not be used on crowds until officers are trained in their use, police said.

There will be guidelines and a written policy outlining when, how and by whom the instruments can be used.

The speakers will “provide an ability for us to give clear and concise messages to groups of people whenever we find it necessary to communicate with them,” Sgt. Mercedes Fortune told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

“It could be during a critical incident. Monsoons, sometimes, there’s an area that need to be evacuated. That’s what we’re looking to use as well with large crowds.”

Some in the community were concerned that the devices could be weaponized and said so at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Absolutely not,” Fortune said.

The department already has a smaller version of the device, she said.

According to the LRAD website, the Army and Navy use the company’s system on “small vessels and vehicles,” and it is effective up to around 2,200 yards.

The U.S. Department of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders said exposure to noises at or above 85 decibels can cause damage to ears, though not necessarily permanently. Sirens average 120 decibels.

An officer will have to verify he or she is at a safe distance from the crowd or individual before using the system, Fortune said, to ensure levels don’t cause long-term hearing loss.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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