Vancouver police have acquired an acoustic device capable of emitting focused directed sound at levels between 99 and 146 decibels, and Olympics opponents and civil libertarians alike fear it will be used to disrupt protests during the Olympic Games.
The MRAD (Medium Range Acoustic Device) has been purchased by several police departments across the United States, and by the US military, which deployed the device in Iraq to combat insurgents, according to NPR. The MRAD can be used effectively as a "sonic gun" to disrupt protests and civil unrest, inducing pain and disorientation upon targets. The MRAD, or a similar device, was used to quell protests in Georgia in 2007.
But Vancouver police told the CBC that while the MRAD may be needed during the Olympics, it will not be put to such uses.
"It was looked at solely for its effectiveness at delivering a message to a large number of people, " Const. Lindsay Houghton said.
The MRAD was tested as a public address system during last summer's Celebration of Light, a fireworks festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators to downtown Vancouver.
David Eby, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, is skeptical of such claims.
"If you had to design a device that amplified sound dramatically but was less effective at communicating with a large dispersed crowd, you'd be hard pressed to do so," Eby wrote on his blog.