September 15, 2009

Escalation of Force

I saw via Glenn last night that law enforcement in San Diego. The link to the original article is apparently overloaded at the moment, but Danger Room also covered the story:

"The [Long Range Acoustic Device] was stationed by San Diego County Sheriff deputies at a recent town hall forum hosted by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) in Spring Valley and at a subsequent town hall with Congressman Darrell Issa (R-San Diego)," East Country Magazine reported after reviewing official records. It was also parked at a local sand-building competition along the beach.

Though the Long Range Acoustic Device can be used for hailing, it has also been employed as a weapon, most prominently in 2005 by a cruise ship, which used it to ward off attacking pirates. In fact, the device, which was developed after the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, is designed precisely for that sort of mission. It can permanently damage hearing, depending on how it's used.

Deploying the Long Range Acoustic Device to local events has provided ammunition to critics of Police Sheriff Bill Gore, who was the agent-in-charge of the FBI's infamous 1992 Ruby Ridge siege. In response to questions posed by East Country Magazine about use of the technology, Gore said that officers had the appropriate training and that the device's use as a deterrent is just a "precaution in case you need it."

I understand why law enforcement desires less-than-lethal solutions, and I also understand why they prefer to deploy these tools at a distance instead of at close range. The obvious hope—the "holy grail"—is a system that can help law enforcement control a situation and deescalate a threat without putting officers or their opposition at risk of suffering permanent injury or death. A system that creates separation is presumably thought to reduce the inherent risk of short-range confrontations.

But is an LRAD an acceptable tool for use for non-violent domestic crowd control?

While I can see an obvious need for systems that make keep potentially heavily-armed crowds at a distance in foreign theaters of combat, I'm at a loss to explain why domestic law enforcement agencies feel the need to deploy acoustic weapons that have the potential to create permanent physical damage in situations where no reasonable person expects the level of violence that could justify such a system.

The deployment of an LRAD in the situation as described seems to be an unwarranted escalation of force from law enforcement, one that poses a significant simultaneous threat of permanent injury to large numbers of people. It has the potential to be used as a communications tool, or a weapon as indiscriminate as a claymore mine.

My gut reaction s that full-power military grade LRADs do not belong in the hands of civilian law enforcement at benign public gatherings any more than fully-automatic M4s do, and that having such systems in place will only encourage agitators to bring weaponry sufficient to counter these systems, putting the population at large at a much great risk than there would have been if LRADs was never introduced to the situation at all.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 15, 2009 10:00 AM

>>"My gut reaction s that full-power military grade LRADs do not belong in the hands of civilian law enforcement at benign public gatherings"

They don't belong in the hands of law enforcement, period. The real story here is the way our rulers are becoming more and more open about seeing the American people as an unruly mob in need of a "whiff of grapeshot". Tom Friedmans longing for Chinese-style dictatorship is an example. So is the love-affair of the "libertarian" right for that same dictatorship.

Posted by: Steve at September 15, 2009 10:17 AM

Okay, so we can't waterboard terrorists (which has no permanent effect), but we can allow civilian lawmen to inflict hearing damage on unruly American protesters. Sure, why not.

Posted by: tsmonk at September 15, 2009 10:37 AM

I know that if I encountered such a device when I was trying to get a message to my congressman, I would be enclined to use force from a distance as well. Unfortunately the only force I am allowed is potentially deadly.

Posted by: David at September 15, 2009 11:04 AM

apparently, someone asked the Deputy driving the thing around on an ATV and the Deputy acted like he had no clue to what the thing was he was giving a tour of the crowd to. is supposed to be a link but I cannot get it to work at the moment.

Posted by: JP at September 15, 2009 11:15 AM

At some point aggresive law enforcement crosses a line form "protect and serve" to "thugs with a badge."

Another reason why an armed society is a polite society.

Posted by: SicSemperTyrannus at September 15, 2009 11:31 AM

I have to agree, having an LRAD present at such events is an unnecessary show of force on the part of of the SD Sheriff's office. I think they were probably hoping most people wouldn't know what it was. I have to admit I probably wouldn't recognize one if I saw it.

A sand building competition? Please.

Then again we all know how many riots have ensued after the local favorite sand builder loses the competition...

Posted by: Scott at September 15, 2009 11:45 AM

". . . has provided ammunition to critics of Police Sheriff Bill Gore."

What the hell is a Police Sheriff?

Posted by: Pat at September 15, 2009 02:25 PM

What was that about government's should be afraid of their people not the opposite?

We are in so much trouble in this country.

Posted by: Robohobo at September 16, 2009 12:19 AM

"having such systems in place will only encourage agitators to bring weaponry sufficient to counter these systems"

Or earplugs.

Posted by: guy at September 16, 2009 01:12 AM

So in a crowd of 10,000 people we have 20 that decide to get violent. All 10,000 get hearing loss. This weapon needs to go back to the military.
Paul in Texas

Posted by: Paul at September 18, 2009 04:49 PM