Authorities in California, where at least five police departments have acknowledged having the devices, said information about the locations of devices was not readily available and it would take several days to compile.
American Technology declined a request from The Washington Times to identify which police departments have purchased the devices, but its most recent SEC filings show sales are rising. In the first nine month of 2009, sales of the device generated $12.8 million, a 74 percent increase over the same period in the previous year, the filing stated.
The first acknowledged public use of the LRADs in the United States occurred at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, during which police activated one of the devices to disperse what they said were protesters seeking to march without a permit on the city’s convention center.
The dish-shaped device was mounted atop a military-style police vehicle and the piercing sound it emitted caused the protesters to stop, cover their ears and back up, at which time they faced nonlethal tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
“Other law enforcement agencies will be watching to see how it was used,” Nate Harper, the Pittsburgh police bureau chief, told reporters at the time. “It served its purpose well.”
More than 190 people were arrested during the G-20 demonstrations. No serious injuries were reported.
American Technology spokesman Robert Putnam said the company’s LRAD system was “successfully deployed” by Pittsburgh law enforcement agencies to “support their peacekeeping efforts at the G-20 summit,” but he denied that the devices are weapons.
“There’s no truth to the claims that these devices are ‘death guns’ or ‘sonic cannons,’ and the only people saying that are those who have not experienced the LRAD themselves,” Mr. Putnam said. “They are communication devices and their point is to communicate with people who are not interested in complying with lawful orders.”
He said the LRAD enabled law enforcement authorities in Pittsburgh to “communicate clearly” with an unruly crowd at a safe distance to peacefully resolve an uncertain situation without injury or a loss of life on “both sides of the device without resorting to the use of nonlethal or lethal weapons.” He said the device was used to deliver “critical information, instructions and warnings.”
Mr. Putnam said LRADs can cause damage to hearing if used improperly or “if you stand in front of it for several minutes,” but he said American Technology trains those who purchase the devices.
He said law enforcement personnel have “full control of the audio output through a prominently positioned volume control knob” and that the broadcasts can be “easily and quickly adjusted” based on their intended use.
“We give them instructions. We give them training. We give them a manual,” he said. “It needs to be properly used and we do what we can to educate the people.”
When pressed about guarding against potential harmful effects, he said, “Put your fingers in your ears.”
The company has said the devices are intended to be used for only a few seconds at a time, and that there should be no lasting effects from brief exposure. Mr. Putnam said the devices can broadcast up to 152 decibels at a distance of three feet.
Raymond DeMichiei, Pittsburgh’s deputy director of emergency management and homeland security, said he thought the devices worked well without hurting anyone.