During a company conference call with financial analysts last week, Tom Brown, the chief executive of LRAD, a military contractor, informed investors that sales were rolling in, not just from Chinese government agencies and the U.S. Navy, but also from American law enforcement.
LRAD manufactures an acoustic cannon that can be used either as a mounted loudspeaker or as a weapon to fire deafening noises at crowds of people.
Over the last year, following a wave of protests over officer-involved killings of black Americans, LRAD has seen an uptick in inquiries from police departments around the country.
Brown told financial analysts in a May conference call about the “renewed interest” from police departments. “A lot of grant money starts to flow to law enforcement, and we’re getting a lot of inquiries” following protests, he said. One inquiry he mentioned came from the Maryland Sheriff’s Department following the protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray.
Speaking to investors, LRAD executives explained that their product was on site in Baltimore, on loan from Montgomery County, Maryland, though officers ended up not using it on demonstrators. But, the LRAD executives added, the New York Police Department used the cannon as a loudspeaker to order demonstrators in Union Square who were holding a solidarity protest in support of the Baltimore actions to disperse.
Videos of the NYPD using the LRAD cannon to manage the demonstrators were widely circulated on YouTube, company officials boasted. “So we have been getting good press,” Brown noted, adding, “depending on which side of the press you’re looking at, but we’ve been getting very strong press from law enforcement.”
Listen to the LRAD investor call below:
Notably, the LRAD-100X was deployed against Ferguson protesters last year, and has made appearances at other Black Lives Matter events over the last 12 months. In Ferguson, the LRAD cannon was fired on protesters who had assembled in the street.
The LRAD device can reach 152 decibels, a level that can cause permanent hearing damage. In December, Vice reported on the potential dangers of the LRAD cannon, noting, “Permanent hearing loss begins with a sustained sound that’s louder than 90 dB SPL — for example, a subway train 200 feet away — but you won’t start to feel immediate pain until 120 decibels, about the loudness of a shotgun blast. At 160 dB — a little less loud than a rocket launch — your eardrum will burst.”
Local law enforcement agencies have been courted by a range of companies hoping to sell next-generation crowd control and surveillance technology. In September 2014, just after the protests in Ferguson, the Military Police Expo, a convention for companies that supply weapons and equipment to law enforcement, hosted an event in Ford Leonard Wood, Missouri, for vendors to “showcase their products.”
Caption: A police officer holds an LRAD sound cannon during a protest in New York City in November.