Los Angeles City Council Delays Vote On Donation of Police Robot
A decision by the Los Angeles City Council on whether to accept a $280,000 police robot donation to the Los Angeles Police Department was delayed for 60 days Tuesday after protests from many residents over concerns of spying and use of force.
As of late 2022, remote-controlled police robots have been under scrutiny in many police departments across California. Successful incidents where police departments across the country have used robots to successfully take down suspects who posed an immediate threat, such as The Dallas PD using one in 2016 to kill a sniper who shot at police officers influenced many to look at the technology. In California, the passage of AB 481 last year, which stated that all law enforcement agencies in California had to make a list of all equipment considered “military,” including what they use it for, led to many departments to expand the field as much as possible. to allow for future life-saving needs.
In October of last year, the Oakland PD was looking at arming police robots with more than just pepper spray, including shotguns. However, public outcry caused the department to abandon the idea just days after it was proposed. In the following month, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) began pushing for robots to be used in deadly force situations. The Board of Supervisors even allowed it before withdrawing in December, denying SFPD the use of robots for all deadly force situations after weeks of protests.
With robots capable of using lethal force proving unpopular, police departments have considered using them to peacefully approach dangerous suspects during violent confrontations and to enter high-risk situations where officers’ lives are at stake. the police would be in danger. This new mindset first proved successful in Los Angeles, where a $280,000 donated police robot dog was first approved by the Board of Police Commissioners and the City Council’s public safety committee. Many were even won over by the LAPD’s insistence that the robot would never be armed with any weapons, that it would never carry facial recognition software, and that it would only be used in limited situations for SWAT team surveillance. . However, with a City Council vote on final approval, protesters against the technology once again came out in force ahead of a key vote to raise issues around it.
For the LAPD robot, protesters focused on privacy concerns, particularly for the city’s black and Latino residents. Some raised concerns about spying and the use of facial recognition software being used against people and to target certain communities, while others claimed that weapons and spyware could always be added in the future, although both need for the future approval of the Council to do so. All this was discussed at the Council meeting on Tuesday.
“You are laying the groundwork for a future that will feature this robot dog killing people,” said a public commenter at the Council on Tuesday.
Another protester, known only as “Jose,” added, “It’s a slippery slope. We let these robots now just scout, then we’ll see the police trying to get them with guns or bombs. No it’s right.”
As the Council meeting continued Tuesday, some council members began to side with protesters opposing the robot donation.
“This is a product and the products will meet the needs of the wants in the future,” Councilor Eunisses Hernandez noted. “Why does our Police Department need a device that can have those capabilities in the future? We know that our black, brown, immigrant and under-resourced communities are so often the places where these new technologies are being used.”
LAPD bot vote delayed by two months
Due to the concerns raised, LA City Council President Paul Krekorian postponed the vote for two months to address questions and concerns from the public, as well as those on the Council, about the donated robot.
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian. (Photo: lacity.org)
“I would like when it comes back to have before the council the policies that are currently in place as a condition for accepting this gift,” Krekorian noted. “Delaying the vote by 60 days would also give us the opportunity to exhaust any opportunity to have answers to questions that have been raised about existing deployment capabilities and so on.”
While the decision reassured some, experts noted that the robot is likely to be accepted in May not only for its use, but because anything specifically added to the robot, such as weapons or spy programs, will have to be rigorously approved. Experts also noted that the Council would look more closely at the benefits of using a robot in dealing with dangerous suspects, with the huge benefit of saving the lives of officers and members of the public as a result.
“These robots are not walking around communities looking for people or coming into situations with weapons,” Wesley Riggs, a supplier of security goods that focuses on non-lethal items, told the Globe Wednesday. “This LAPD donation is particularly notable because it walks like a dog and is not like the military-grade specials that are capable of using weapons. This is just for surveillance to see what a suspect is doing in a deadly situation where a police officer is likely to be in great danger, such as a potentially armed suspect who is out of sight.”
“Say they’re behind a concrete wall in a parking garage and they’re likely armed. You should know for sure so that the police can be better prepared. You send officers, the suspect may start shooting. But you send a robot in, it would have a different effect, especially one that looks like a dog. He can go in, see what danger the suspect poses, and for the police who are watching, they can gather what they need to get the suspect in alive and best assess what kind of force is needed.”
“That’s all. It’s meant to save lives and will only be sent to look in those few situations where it’s not known and the police can’t easily detect it. Many of these people at the meeting were simply ignorant of what robots do. indeed. And now we have to wait a few months because of him.”
The next vote for the robot donation is expected to come in early May.