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21st Century Riot Control Tools

Anarchists and agitators beware: Heat rays and stink bombs are in your future.

November 29, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

The Sonic Laser

One of the biggest problems faced by riot control officers is actually finding a way to communicate with people over the din of the demonstration. Vahan Simidian believes he has the solution to that problem.

Simidian is CEO of HPV Technologies and developer of the Magnetic Acoustic Device (MAD), a planar speaker system that can be used to communicate distortion free at a range of more than a mile. A MAD system projects sound in a very tight coherent beam much the same way a laser projects coherent light, meaning that it can send sound farther down range with less power. Police using this device can tell a crowd to disperse in a normal speaking voice and be heard over even the loudest demonstrators.

"It's not about loudness; it's about clarity," says Simidian. "We don't have to produce enormous sound levels to get the sound to go a long, long way."

Currently, HPV's products are in use with a number of law enforcement agencies nationwide for crowd notification. But could it be used as a less-lethal weapon to force a crowd to disperse?

Simidian doesn't like the term "weapon," but certain irritating and annoying sounds sent through his system can cause pain and other forms of discomfort. And because they are not as loud as some other sonic devices, Simidian says his MAD systems won't cause hearing damage. "We could hurt you if we wanted to," Simidian says, "but we don't want to."

MAD systems are currently available in a wide variety of configurations. Some are so small that they are officer portable. Others can be fitted on bicycles and some are so large that they need to be fitted on trucks. Simidian is also working on a handheld MAD device that will incapacitate subjects with no permanent damage.

Crowd Control TASERs

Electronic Control Devices currently play a major role in riot control worldwide. Officers have used TASERs to incapacitate individual agitators and effect arrests of unruly anarchists for years now. And recently, TASER International developed two more products that may eventually find their way into the arsenal of riot control teams.

TASER's Shockwave is an area denial device that was inspired by anti-personnel mines. The Shockwave ADS consists of three tiers of six TASER cartridges. It works like this: The operator uses an activator system that is hard-wired into the Shockwave. If he pushes the trigger once, the first row of six cartridges fires and the rioters get a 30-second ride. A second time, and the second row fires and a charge is sent back into the probes that are now sticking into the bad guys. A third time, and the third row and the first and second sets of probes go active again. Finally, there's an option for firing all three rows—18 cartridges—at once and incapacitating the target with a hail of probes.

TASER spokesperson Steve Tuttle says the Shockwave has not yet been used in a riot control operation. But it has been successfully fielded by a SWAT team during a barricade situation.

Tuttle believes the indiscriminate nature of the Shockwave may prevent it from being suitable for crowd control situations, but he does see one specific use for the device during a riot. "If there's a protest and there's an area you don't want touched such as a business area, you could use Shockwave to prevent the protesters from entering that area," he says.

Another new TASER product was designed specifically for riot control situations, the eXtended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP).

Fired from a dedicated 12-gauge shotgun, XREP is essentially an electric impact round. The XREP has a maximum range of 65 feet and weighs about 14 grams. It doesn't hit very hard as an impact round, but it hits real hard as a TASER. The neuro-muscular incapacitation effect lasts 20 seconds, four times as long as a TASER X26.

So far the XREP has not been used in a crowd control situation, but that's likely to change as more agencies acquire the technology.

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