* Injuries alleged at protest over Eric Garner death
* Judge says 'reasonably plausible' NYPD acted unnecessarily
* New York City calls sound cannons safe, evaluates steps
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, June 1 The New York City Police
Department failed to persuade a federal judge to dismiss a
lawsuit claiming it used excessive force by employing
military-grade sound cannons, which can emit ear-piercing noise,
to disperse protesters.
In a decision on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet
in Manhattan said people who claimed to suffer hearing loss,
migraines, ringing in the ears and other injuries at a Dec. 5,
2014, protest over the death of an unarmed black man at the
hands of police could seek damages.
The plaintiffs - including photojournalists, activists, a
photographer and a graduate student - were protesting a grand
jury decision not to indict a white policeman whose chokehold
led to the death of Eric Garner in July 2014.
Armed with videos of the protest, they objected to the
NYPD's use from 10 feet away of a Long Range Acoustic Device
(LRAD), which can be used to disperse crowds through volumes
that can top 120 decibels, louder than sandblasters and power
"The protest involved large numbers of people and so it is
understandable that the officers would want to increase the
volume of their message to reach the largest number," Sweet
"However, the allegations and video make the protest appear
broadly in control, even when glass bottles were thrown from the
crowd toward the police," making it "reasonably plausible" that
the LRAD was unnecessary, he said.
Sweet also said the plaintiffs could pursue claims over the
alleged improper training of officers, and for assault and
He rejected claims over alleged free speech violations and
illegal seizures, and dismissed all claims against former NYPD
Commissioner William Bratton.
"The Long Range Acoustic Device is an effective and safe
communication tool," Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city's
law department, said in a statement. "We are reviewing the
decision and evaluating our next steps."
Gideon Oliver, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a
statement he hopes the NYPD will change its policies to reflect
how LRADs are "potentially deadly crowd control tools, requiring
training and supervision to use safely."
According to the plaintiffs, the NYPD began employing LRADs
during the 2004 Republican National Convention, but waited a
decade before using them regularly at protests.
LRADs are made by San Diego-based LRAD Corp, which
is not a defendant in the lawsuit.
The case is Edrei et al v. City of New York et al, U.S.
District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-01652.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill