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NYPD To Use More Robot Dogs Despite Criticism

The New York Police Department will use more robots to fight crime, says Mayor Eric Adams. The initiative includes the deployment of a “K5” unit in Times Square that will help beat officers with surveillance. The city also acquired two robotic dogs—which the NYPD calls “Digidogs”—that will be used at incidents such as hostage situations, the Wall Street Journal reports. Another device will shoot tracking devices onto suspect vehicles. The NYPD experimented with the robotic dogs in 2021, but it abandoned them over backlash from progressive lawmakers and civil- liberties groups who were concerned about what they called the over-militarization of police. Adams, a former NYPD captain who was elected in 2021 on an anticrime platform, said the criticism was coming from a vocal minority. He said that police using robotics in the 21st century was akin to the earlier adoption of fingerprint technology. “If we were not willing to move forward and use technology on how to properly keep cities safe, then you will not keep up with those doing harmful things,” he said. “Digidog is out of the pound.”

The city will lease one K5—which moves similar to a Roomba and looks like a 5-foot R2-D2—for use in the Times Square subway station starting in the summer, said NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey. The robot moves autonomously and is equipped with a video camera, microphones, speakers and thermal detectors, according to manufacturer Knightscope. The cone-shaped device will provide “real-time situational awareness and actionable intelligence,” Maddrey said. No facial-recognition technology will be used, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. The so-called digidogs, meanwhile, are remote-controlled, four-legged units that can climb stairs. They will be used to investigate sites with possible hazardous materials, or to approach barricaded suspects. The robots are often used for inspecting infrastructure or manufacturing facilities, according to online materials from manufacturer Boston Dynamics, Inc. The company didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, an advocacy group, belittled the devices as “knockoff robocops” and said that the city should use its resources in more proven ways. “The NYPD is turning bad science fiction into terrible policing,” said the group's Albert Fox Cahn, referencing the 1987 film “RoboCop.”


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