LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council Friday is expected to again delay a vote on whether to accept a donation of a $278,000 dog-like, four-legged robot, which has sparked concern among some council members and prompted protests from activists.
The donation is listed on Friday’s City Council agenda, but Hugh Esten, director of communications for Council President Paul Krekorian, said the council has requested to delay the vote until May 23.
The council discussed the donation of the robot in early March, and after nearly three hours of debate, Council President Krekorian called for a 60-day delay in the vote, with the intention of providing time for council members to become more aware of the deployment policies for the device.
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Council members were also urged to introduce proposed conditions on accepting the donation, such as receiving assurances about how and when the robot would be used.
The “Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle” is being donated to the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division by the Los Angeles Police Foundation.
Activists who protested the donation expressed concern the robot would become a tool for the Los Angeles Police Department to harass and conduct surveillance of Black and Brown communities.
LAPD representatives offered repeated assurances that the device would be used only in SWAT situations or hazardous-materials or search-and-rescue operations.
Police also insisted the robot will never be equipped with any sort of weapons or facial-recognition technology, nor would it be used in any type of patrol operations.
Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez said she had “grave concerns” about the device. She also questioned longer-term costs of the donated item, such as extended warranties and training.
“How does accepting this donation make our city safer, and how is it fiscally responsible?” she asked.
Councilman Soto-Martinez added, “At the heart of these questions is, does the community trust the LAPD? And I think the answer is no.”
Other council members, however, defended the donation as adding a tool that would assist officers engaged in life-threatening situations.
Councilman John Lee noted that the ground-based robot is nimble and can perform tasks such as opening doors and accessing areas that aerial drones cannot, providing a valuable tool in cases such as a barricade situation or other standoff.
“This has the ability to save lives,” Lee said.
Yeah and we see how they already use the drones.. they have them everywhere! God only knows what they are looking for all over the damn place all day and especially at night. If they couldn’t handle a drone without violating people’s privacy what do we expect them to do with the creepy dog robot.