Genasys, formerly the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) Corporation, specializes in manufacturing acoustic hailing systems. Its flagship product, the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), is used by police, military personnel, and immigration authorities in the US and abroad.
Genasys Inc., formerly the Long Range Acoustic Hailing Device (LRAD) Corporation, is a San Diego, California-based publicly-traded company that develops acoustic hailing devices and public safety warning systems. The company was founded in 1980 by Woody Norris, the inventor of the LRAD acoustic cannon, the BolaWrap,—a lasso-like device used by police "to restrain subjects"—and other equipment used by law enforcement.
Genasys created its LRAD sonic weapon for the military after the 2000 attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen. Equipped with "military-grade material," LRADs broadcast highly intelligible voice communications and high-pitched warning tones from distances over 2,000 meters.
Genasys markets its systems specifically to law enforcement, presenting them as alternatives to megaphones and other public address systems. According to the company's website, LRAD systems are used by police to issue "warnings, commands, and notifications" in anything from traffic control and crowd communication to SWAT operations, active shooter situations, and hostage negotiations.
However, in addition to using LRADs as a speech amplifier, police can utilize the technologies' built-in-alarm mode, which emits a high-frequency deterrent tone that can be targeted at a specific location. LRAD systems are routinely deployed by U.S. police as "crowd control" weapons against protestors. Exposure to the alarm mode can cause painful sound injury symptoms, including headaches, nadeau, sweating, vertigo, and loss of balance; stress and distraction; symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder; and even permanent hearing loss.
Genasys claims that its LRAD systems are used in more than 100 countries and 500 U.S. cities. While the exact number of U.S. police departments currently utilizing LRADs remains undisclosed, it has been reported that law enforcement agencies in at least 30 states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin—and the District of Columbia have used, or have been granted approval for the use of, the technology. Five of the California law enforcement agencies that responded to our public records requests have spent an aggregate $78,264 on LRADs and related accessories. The most commonly purchased model is the LRAD 100X, which is lightweight and portable.
LRAD systems are routinely deployed by U.S. police as "crowd control" weapons against protestors. Following their first documented use against protestors during the 2009 G20 protests in Pittsburgh, LRADs have since been deployed against Occupy movement protestors in Oakland, Calif. and New York in 2011; against anti-pipeline protestors at Standing Rock in 2016; against Women's March protestors in Washington, D.C. in 2017; and against Black Lives Matter protestors in Charleston, S.C., Colorado Springs, Colo., Columbus, Ohio, Ferguson, Mo., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Louisville, Ky., New York, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., San Jose, Calif., Seattle, and other U.S. cities in 2020.
Cities across the country have faced lawsuits stemming from injuries caused by police officers' use of LRADs. In 2011, an observer of the 2009 G20 protests sued the city of Pittsburgh after suffering permanent hearing loss as a result of exposure to a police-operated LRAD. In 2012, the city paid monetary damages and agreed to develop a policy "governing LRAD deployment to ensure its careful and controlled use."
In 2017, a District Judge in Manhattan ruled that a group of individuals could seek damages for injuries they suffered when NYPD officers deliberately aimed an LRAD device at them during a 2014 Black Lives Matter protest. While the police argued that an LRAD should not legally be considered an "instrument of force," the court ruled that its use of the LRAD in this case constituted excessive force. The NYPD agreed to add a section to its administrative guide on when and how to use the device. Although other police departments have similarly limited or more clearly defined the use of LRADs, agencies throughout the country continue to use the devices with little to no oversight.
Different models of the LRAD are also used by the U.S. military, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and have been deployed abroad by police and military personnel in, for example, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Georgia, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Oman, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the UK.
Outside of the U.S., the LRAD has been used by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory. Known in Israel as "The Scream," the LRAD is routinely used by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank to attack Palestinian protestors, according to Who Profits. In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered $293,000 worth of LRAD 100X and 500X systems.