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Los Angeles approves $278,000 robot police dog despite "grave concerns"

LA City Council approves robot police dog for LAPD
LA City Council approves robot police dog for LAPD 04:03

A $278,000 robotic dog was approved by the Los Angeles City Council, despite some council members expressing "grave concerns" about the Boston Dynamics-manufactured device. 

The "Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle" was offered as a donation to the Los Angeles Police Department by the Los Angeles Police Foundation, according to CBS Los Angeles. If the council hadn't accepted the donation, the offer would have expired, it reported. 

On Tuesday, the L.A. city council voted 8-4 in favor of accepting the robot dog, which is unarmed but has surveillance technology. Members of the public spoke at the meeting, with most urging the council against taking up the offer, citing fears that the machine could violate resident's civil rights, CBS LA reported.

Such robots have sparked debate and fascination, as videos of the four-legged machines — including one that shows a Boston Dynamic's robot dog opening a door — have gone viral. But adding the mechanized creatures to policing efforts have also led to controversy, with concern that the machines could be used against people.

Demo of Boston Dynamics' SPOT robot dog at 2022 Mobile World Congress MWC in Barcelona, Spain. The "Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle" was offered as a donation to the LAPD by the Los Angeles Police Foundation. Gustavo Valiente/Xinhua via Getty Images

Los Angeles councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez had previously said she had "grave concerns" about accepting the donation. She wasn't present at the vote on Tuesday, according to ABC7.

"We've seen these robot dogs crop up in other police departments around the country, including New York and San Francisco, where the community is similarly fighting back against bringing this kind of depersonalized, military-style technology to municipal police forces," she said in a statement, according to CBS LA.

Texas program studies human-robot interactions 02:35

The LA council's approval comes with some strings attached. The city's police department must issue quarterly reports about the robot's usage and outcomes, as well as note any problems that arise. The council also has authority to suspend the robot's use, CBS LA said. 

New York City has recently added robot dogs to its police force, despite concerns from some residents that the machines could be problematic, especially in poor communities that have experienced aggressive policing. A robot dog was recently used in New York City to go inside a collapsed parking garage, with NYC Mayor Eric Adams praising the machine. 

"Just one week ago, I was being criticized by all the folks in the bleachers, saying, 'Well, why are you getting that dog?' " Adams said. "Now you see why I got the dog — to save lives."

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