A long range acoustic device (LRAD) is the newest tool in the Buffalo Police Department's arsenal. It's essentially a powerful speaker that can play a continuous siren so loud it can't be tolerated and disperses large crowds.
"It has different sound frequencies in a beam," explained Commissioner Daniel Derenda at the Buffalo Common Council police oversight committee meeting Tuesday. "You have to be, I believe, close to 300 feet away before you utilize it. It would only be used in cases of a riot and that type of situation."
Buffalo Police spent around $30,000 for the device and other costs associated with the operation. It can produce bursts of sound as loud as 154 decibels and a continuous sound at 149 decibels.
For perspective, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a jet engine is 140 decibels and anything above 85 decibels has the potential to cause hearing damage, depending on how long an individual is exposed to the sound.
"Hopefully it will never be used," Derenda said. "We do have a policy. If there is an out of control situation, to disperse an out of control crowd. It can be used in a SWAT situation with somebody that's barricaded."
The device concerns Ben Nelson, an attorney in Buffalo with the National Lawyers Guild. He worries, if it is used, innocent individuals exercising their right to peacefully protest could be subject to injury if they happen to be near crowds Buffalo Police deem "out of control".
"It's not targeted," Nelson said. "It cannot be targeted to people who are out of control.The only people who are potentially safe from it, I guess, are those standing directly behind it as it's deployed."
Buffalo Police say they can also use the LRAD as a more powerful megaphone to make announcements during emergency situations or natural disasters.