Austin Police Department use of LRADs discussed by public safety commissioners

On Monday, Austin public safety commissioners discussed the police department’s policies and tactics for responding to protests after community members brought up concerns.

A long range acoustic device, or LRAD, delivers loud sounds over long distances. Studies show people have reported hearing loss, ear pain, and ringing because of these devices.

"We have 60 police officers injured, half of them for issues with their hearing and we're using LRADs," Public Safety Commissioner Rebecca Webber brought up.

"Those injuries were as a result of fireworks being thrown at officers in addition to the use of megaphones and bullhorns as part of protestors in close proximity," APD chief of staff Robin Henderson responded.

APD said LRADs are used during protests as a communication device.

"Our traditional PA device in our patrol cars is inadequate for us to be able to communicate with a large gathering and protestors," APD Commander Corey Wroblewski said, ‘Someone has to be trained before its use, you can't just put any old officer behind, in charge of that device. There needs to be training with the equipment and the equipment is tested before it's used."

Jim Ellinger, an Austin resident of 40 years, said APD is misusing LRADs and it’s an ongoing issue. "We all know that they misused bean bag rounds, misused tear gas, misused other tools," Ellinger said.

The commission ran out of time to take any action, so many questions still remain.

"What we're spending on these devices and then how are we keeping our public safety personnel safe when we're using them?" Commissioner Webber asked.

Commissioners said the topic will be on the agenda again in September.