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Resident objects to police department interest in acoustic devices

January 4, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — A resident expressed concern to the City Council on Wednesday about the Police Department’s interest in purchasing two long-range acoustic devices.

“You have yet to describe it as a weapon,” resident Harvey Pryor said to Police Chief Brian Williamson. “It’s not just a sound system.”

The police chief had just completed a presentation about why the department wants to pursue a grant of up to $54,000 from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security. Noise from the 100X model LRAD travels 600 meters while sound through the more powerful 450X can be heard up to a distance of 1,700 meters.

“Where are we going to need such a thing?” Pryor asked. “He wants to buy two of these damned things.”

The police chief said he agreed with Pryor’s comments about how some agencies have used LRAD as a weapon.

However, Williamson said, the problem is with “how people use it.” And, the department wasn’t going to purchase the sound that would create the controversial “deterrent tone.”

He said evacuations would go faster because the messages would travel farther and wider when people need to be warned to get clear of the area because an emergency such as the potential failure of Davis Dam or a life-threatening weather event. Suspects holed up inside residences or other buildings would be able to better understand what is being asked of them by law enforcement.

Better equipment than the bullhorns and public address systems now used by the police department would allow messages to be delivered — and understood — by potentially large numbers of people along the Colorado River and in Rotary Park, for example.

Williamson explained that the council would be asked to approve a draft policy spelling out rules for use if the department receives the grant and purchases the sound systems. Such a policy would include a short list of officials who can authorize use of these systems, he said.

Williamson noted that the City of Phoenix has adopted a use policy.

According to the Arizona Republic, this happened when it was decided the police department would be allowed to buy a stronger set of LRADs than the one used after President Donald Trump’s

downtown rally in August 2017. Some protesters said they weren’t able to understand officials when they were ordering them to disperse when using a 100X LRAD, and that it resulted in use of tear gas, smoke grenades and other projectiles.

However, some still oppose the purchase because police in Phoenix not only would have a stronger LRAD system to send messages across bigger areas but could produce the sound of a “pain-inducing, high-pitched siren,” the article also noted.

Some Northern California fire departments also have begun looking at these high-powered systems after a rash of wildfires — especially the Camp Fire that tore through Paradise — demonstrated that evacuations during such situations need to be quicker and reach wider areas.

The council unanimously approved allowing Williamson to apply for the grant.

In other business, council members:

Accepted the bid by Western Emulsions Inc., to contract for purchase and delivery of emulsion used for the City Street Maintenance Program, as needed, up to $667,106.75.Approved another police department request that would allow it to apply for a grant up to $40,000 that would pay for a Scan X Scout X-ray system to be used by the Hazardous Device-Bomb team. The FBI requires the team to maintain an X-ray system.

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