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Los Angeles City Council approves donation of ‘robot dog’ to police

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — A four-legged “robot dog” is the newest member of the Los Angeles Police Department after the City Council voted 8-4 to approve its acquisition on Tuesday.

The robot – a quadruped unmanned ground vehicle called “Spot” – is made by Boston Dynamics and is valued at nearly $280,000.

Spot was first given as a gift to the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division by the Los Angeles Police Foundation in March. The foundation is a nonprofit group that has “provided more than $44 million in grants to the LAPD” since 1998, according to its website.

‘Spot’, a quadruped robot developed by Boston Dynamics, is displayed June 9, 2022, during a media presentation at the Pompeii Archaeological Park, near Naples, southern Italy. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

LAPD said the robot will be used in a limited number of scenarios, including “incidents involving active shooters, explosives assessment, hostage taking, natural disasters, hazardous materials assessment, barricaded suspects and search and rescue missions”.

Spot will not be equipped with any weapons systems, facial recognition software or scanning capabilities, officials said. It will also not be used for routine patrol duties or covert surveillance operations.

Some critics, however, worry that the robot is being misused to surveil and target people in poor communities of color.

Activists have been protesting the move for months and appeared at Tuesday’s council hearing to voice their opposition.

“We know we’re not going to see a robo rover peddling the streets of Brentwood or the Palisades,” said Paul Freedman of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “It’s going to be rolled out to areas where we’re detonating fireworks semis.”

The LAPD’s acquisition of Spot follows similar moves by other law enforcement agencies, including the New York Police Department, Massachusetts State Police, St. Petersburg Florida and others.

Officials said the LAPD plans to begin using the robot in the coming months after training and testing protocols.

“I am grateful for the approval today by the majority of the City Council to accept the donation from the Los Angeles Police Foundation for the acquisition of this state-of-the-art mechanical robot,” said the LAPD Chief Michael Moore. “This technology will allow us to better protect our officers and the community, allowing us to use modern technology to de-escalate dangerous situations.”


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