New acoustic weapon for police to undergo Home Office tests

The UK Home Office is to undertake an evaluation of an acoustic weapon which fires "a highly directional beam of sound towards targeted individuals or small groups" from a distance of up to 400 feet.

The purpose of the device, called the A-WASP, is to "disrupt perpetrators of violence or crime and make them aware that they are individually the subject of asserted police attention," according to the manufacturers.

An article in Police Oracle reports that in the coming month the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) is due to evaluate the A-WASP (Acoustic Warning Signal Projector), which is manufactured by a small company called Cerberus Black, based in Reigate, Surrey. [1]

Cerberus Black's stated aim is to "prevent injury, reduce harm and ultimately save lives" by developing "new tools for the Police and Security Forces to manage conflict situations more effectively without putting themselves or members of the public at risk." [2]

A CAST brochure from May 2013 says that the "changing nature of public disturbances" means they "are assessing a range of technologies that may assist in controlling and managing rioters, including acoustic devices and long-range irritant delivery systems." [3]

The Guardian reported in 2012 that after the August 2011 riots, CAST convened a "brainstorming" event for potential new riot control technologies. One subject of discussion was "sound weapons". [4]

Cerberus Black outlines a far wider range of potential uses beyond riot control for the A-WASP, including:

  • Breaking up arguments/fights
  • Perimeter defence
  • Internal building defence
  • Snatch squads
  • Prison/Correctional facility management

The company was founded in 2009 and has received funding from the UK Ministry of Defence for its research. The A-WASP has been displayed and demonstrated at a number of high-profile policing and security exhibitions, including Security and Policing 2014 (organised by the Home Office), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) exposition 2013, held in Philadelphia.

The website Tactical Life, writing about the "best new LE [law enforcement] gear" from the IACP show, said that the A-WASP "represents a new capability in LE and bridges the gap between an audible order and a projected, forceful acoustic warning… plus it features built-in evidence recording (including video)." [5] also attended the IACP event and described the A-WASP as looking "like one of Marvin the Martian's guns". Matt Henry, founder of Cerberus Black, told the newspaper that the device "sounds like the worst siren you've ever heard" and "gives you an impression it's inside your head". [6]

The Daily Mail reported the views of "unofficial guinea pigs" - senior officers on whom the device was tested at a police conference held near Ryton, Coventry. One said: "It looks like a comedy gun but the effect is certainly not funny at all. It felt like there was something inside my head, I felt a bit nauseous, and all I wanted to do was get away from it." [7]

According to Matt Henry, British police have apparently already determined that "safe exposure time for the A-WASP is 115 decibels over a period of a minute." It remains to be seen whether CAST will agree, and whether the device will receive technical and political approval required for it to be put into use.

Further reading

[1] Gary Mason, 'Public order: Sonic dispersal device to be evaluated', Police Oracle, 13 April 2014
[2] Cerberus Black, 'About Cerberus Black'
[3] Home Office, 'Centre for Applied Science and Technology', May 2013
[4] Ben Quinn, 'Riots may be controlled with chemicals', 9 April 2012
[5] 'IACP 2013 Spotlight', Tactical Life, 25 October 2013
[6] Stephanie Farr, 'Cops test latest crime-fighting gadgets at police expo',, 22 October 2013
[7] Chris Greenwood, 'Rioting hooligans could face police siren which blasts them with a 'beam' of sound from 400ft away', Daily Mail, 8 February 2014

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