NYPD deploy robot dog during response to home invasion
Residents in the Bronx, New York stopped dead in their tracks as a four-legged robotic dog trotted down East 227th Street Tuesday
The blue and black rover, which weighs approximately 70 pounds, is equipped with lights, two-way communication, and video cameras, the department said
'The N.Y.P.D. has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents,' the department tweeted last week. 'This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.'
However, Ocasio-Cortez isn't the only person to criticize the NYPD's newest robotic gadget.
New York City Council passed the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act last June as part of an effort to overhaul various areas of the police force, in response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
The act requires the Police Department to be more transparent about its surveillance and technology tools, including Digidog, something critics say had long been lacking.
Similarly to Ocasio-Cortez's concerns, Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times that empowering a robot to do police work could have implications for bias, mobile surveillance, hacking and privacy.
'We do see a lot of police departments adopting powerful new surveillance and other technology without telling, let alone asking, the communities they serve,' he said. 'So openness and transparency is key.'
Ocasio-Cortez argued that police funding that allows for new technology like the Digidog would have better served the community if it had been allotted to programs for education or housing
Digidog is currently being given a test-run by the NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit, who deployed it at a home invasion and barricade situation on East 227th Street near White Plains Road in Wakefield on Tuesday
The robot is fitted with cameras to search an area and send back real-time footage and is powered by artificial intelligence to navigate on its own
'An army of robots with gun arms is not kicking down your door to arrest you,' he said. 'Instead, a robot snitch that looks like a rolling trash can is programmed to decide whether a person looks suspicious—and then call the human police on them.'
'[While] police robots may not be able to hurt people like armed predator drones used in combat - yet - as history shows, calling the police on someone can prove equally deadly.'
A more insidious threat of police robots, Guariglia says, involves surveillance.
'The next time you're at a protest and are relieved to see a robot rather than a baton-wielding officer, know that that robot may be using the IP address of your phone to identify your participation,' he said. 'This makes protesters vulnerable to reprisal from police and thus chills future exercise of constitutional rights.'
There is also concern that the robot could be paired with other technology and be weaponized - much like in 2016 when cops in Dallas rigged a police bomb disposal robot with explosives to blow up a sniper who'd killed five officers.
It is also capable of two-way communication, for example, if an officer needs to talk with a suspect they are able to without getting in harm’s way
Boston Dynamics has previously say it doesn't want its robotic dog - originally called Spot - to be weaponized, with lease agreements subject to a clause requiring the robot not be used in a way that would 'physically harm or intimidate people'.
Keith Taylor, a former NYPD SWAT team sergeant, however, believes the Digidog has 'tremendous potential' to limit injuries and fatalities.
'It’s important to question police authority, however this appears to be pretty straightforward,' he said. 'It is designed to help law enforcement get the information they need without having a deadly firefight, for instance.'
There's certainly case studies to support Taylor's point of view.
In San Jose, California in 2015, a man with a knife who threatened to jump of a bridge was safely brought into custody after the police had a robot bring the man a cellphone and a slice of pizza.
The year prior, police in Albuquerque used a robot to 'deploy chemical munitions' in a motel room where a man had barricaded himself with a gun. He later surrendered without incident, police said.