‘Door Is Now Open’ To Police Use of Robots

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With law enforcement’s rapidly expanding access to robots that can roll into and fly over hostage situations, gunfights, chases and standoffs, experts say it’s just a matter of time before they’ll be used again to kill, reports the Associated Press.. “Nobody wanted to be the first but, yeah, there is no question that it proved effective [in Dallas] and the door is now open,” said Sid Heal of the California Association of Tactical Officers, a retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department commander. Today, dozens of the largest U.S. law enforcement agencies have at least one robot. Many smaller departments are just a phone call away from having access to a nearby agency’s device.

Under a federal program that supplies excess military equipment to civil agencies, the number of agencies that have acquired a robot has climbed dramatically. The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College says there have been 201 such transfers in the first six months of this year, which is dozens more than in any full year since 2003 and 120 more than in all of 2015. These robots are routinely used to get a closer look at suspicious devices in a way that doesn’t endanger officers, and to begin communications with armed suspects. “They’ve been used to carry phones, note pads, and pizzas to suspects,” said Mark Lomax of the National Tactical Officers Association. “You are seeing at trade shows robotic systems that are mounted with things like tear gas launchers,” said Peter Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.”


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