Rights group worried about Vancouver "sonic gun"

Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:50pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Canadian civil liberties group accused police on Tuesday of quietly buying a high-tech audio weapon for possible use against protesters at next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The so-called long range acoustical device (LRAD) can fire a concentrated blast of sound powerful enough to cause hearing damage and temporary vision disruption, according to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

The group, monitoring security for the 2010 Games, said there should have been independent safety testing of the "sonic gun" before Vancouver Police were allowed to buy it, executive director David Eby said.

The purchase, which was never publicly announced, "reduces the credibility of blandishments from city officials about not interfering with lawful and peaceful demonstrations," the civil liberties group said.

Vancouver Police bought the device last summer to communicate with large crowds and during natural disasters where audio systems such as hand-held megaphones are not effective, according to spokesman Constable Lindsey Houghton.

"To call it a 'sonic gun' is like us calling a 1972 Cadillac a 2,000-pound metal missile. It's a public address system," Houghton said.

Houghton said the equipment had already been used to address a large crowd of boaters during a fireworks event last summer, and the purchase had no link to the Winter Olympics, which will be held in the Pacific Coast city in February.

American Technology Corp says the LRAD, which it sells to military and police forces, can broadcast information from a safe distance and "creates increased standoff and safety zones" that help prevent the use of deadly force.   Continued...