During protests in New York City over the past several weeks, a distinct piercing sound could be heard for the first time in this city. The noise, a high-pitched beeping noise, was being emitted from a long-range acoustic device that can shriek repetitive blasts of noise at a volume of up to 152 decibels.

The NYPD bought two of the devices in 2004, at $35,000 apiece, in preparation for the Republican Convention in 2004.

At the time of purchase, the police said that they would only be using the devices for announcements. However, during the protests that have followed the grand jury decision not to bring criminal charges in the death of Eric Garner, the police activated the shrill deterrent function of the devices.

These devices were created partly as a response to a terrorist attack in Yemen on a Navy destroyer, the Cole, in 2000. They can create a piercing sound that ‘can cause damage to someone’s hearing and may become painful,” according to a 2010 NYPD briefing.

Videos posted on YouTube and Instagram captured the sounds and their effect. Protestors were seen scattering and covering their ears. After the word had spread, protestors were seen handing out foam earplugs to one another. Even so, protestors reported pressure on their head, migraines and dizziness. Last Friday, three lawyers sent a lawyer to Police Commissioner Bratton, asking that the devices not be used for deterrent purposes until they can be fully tested.

In addition, the lawyers also asked for training guidelines to be implemented by the NYPD after the NY Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information requests failed to turn up any policies or manuals that had been adopted by the police. While the NYPD released a statement saying that the device noise levels during the protests were not considered dangerous or harmful, the lawyers wrote that “They are designed to perform crowd control and other functions – to modify behavior, and force compliance, by hurting people.”

The NYPD has previously used the devices during the Republican convention and while clearing Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zucotti Park in 2011. However, the lawyers claimed that this week marks the first time that the deterrent piercing sound was used.

In 2009, the City of Pittsburg settled a $72,000 lawsuit by a woman who said her hearing had been damaged by the device.

Source: The New York Times

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