Pittsburgh to pay researcher who suffered hearing loss during G-20 summit

Brian Bowling
| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 1:38 p.m.

Pittsburgh leaders agreed to pay $72,000 to a professor who experienced permanent hearing loss during the September 2009 Group of 20 economic summit, when police used a highly focused loudspeaker on a neighborhood street, said Vic Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

The city also agreed to draft a policy on when and how police will deploy the Long Range Acoustic Device to avoid injuring others, he said on Wednesday.

“Our contention all along was that this device should not be used as a weapon against protesters,” he said. “It was developed for wartime.”

The settlement leaves the city with one pending lawsuit from the summit, a claim by 13 protesters that police violated their civil rights during arrests. The city and its insurer have paid $560,500 to settle G-20-related lawsuits.

City solicitor Dan Regan said the city bought a $10 million police and professional liability insurance policy in advance of the summit, and that policy covered each settlement minus a $25,000 deductible. The city paid a $1.5 million premium for the policy.

Although the settlements so far have cost less than the policy premium and deductible, Regan said the city made the right choice.

“Settling these claims is also a business decision on the part of the city and its insurer,” he said.

The city does not admit wrongdoing in any of the cases, even though it agreed to draft a policy for the LRAD, he said.

Karen Piper, an English professor at the University of Missouri, was researching whether protesters have any effect on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. She says in the lawsuit that she was about 100 feet away from an LRAD when police used it to disperse protesters.

“I am grateful that my case will serve as a deterrent to future users of the LRAD,” Piper said. “The LRAD should have no place on our American streets.”

The other G-20 related settlements:

• $88,000 to 11 protesters who said police violated their civil rights while arresting them during demonstrations.

• $143,000 to the Montana-based Seeds of Peace Collective and the local group Three Rivers Climate Convergence for claims that city employees violated their civil rights before and during the summit.

• $27,500 to an Austin, Texas, man who was arrested while he was videotaping a protest.

• $170,000 to a Point Breeze man who claimed police fractured his knee by repeatedly striking it with a baton during his arrest.

• $60,000 to two University of Pittsburgh students who were arrested as they tried to enter campus dorms.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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