NYPD cancels use of robotic dog after backlash
The New York Police Department (NYPD) will no longer be using the controversial “robot dog” following mounting uproar against the machine’s use, officials confirmed Wednesday.
John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told The New York Times that the leasing contract valued at around $94,000 with the robot dog’s maker, Boston Dynamics, had been ended early on April 22.
The action was taken in response to a subpoena issued by New York City Councilman Ben Kallos (D) and Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D) for records relating to the device.
Miller told the newspaper that the robot’s lease had initially been scheduled to end in August, but the contract had been terminated earlier because it was being improperly used to fuel arguments about race and surveillance, saying it had become a “target.”
“People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil,” Miller said.
The NYPD official did not rule out the possibility of the robot, dubbed Digidog, returning in the future.
“But for now, this is a casualty of politics, bad information and cheap sound bytes,” he told the Times. “We should have named it ‘Lassie.’”
Bill Neidhardt, spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), told the newspaper he was “glad the Digidog was put down,” describing it as “creepy” and “alienating.”
A spokesperson for Boston Dynamics stated Wednesday that the robot dogs were not designed to be used as weapons and were not meant to intimidate people, the Times reported.
“We support local communities reviewing the allocation of public funds, and believe Spot is a cost-effective tool comparable to historical robotic devices used by public safety to inspect hazardous environments,” the spokesperson said.
In February, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) denounced the use of the robot, saying it was being used to target low-income communities of color. The congresswoman also took issue with the funds being used to keep the machine, arguing it should instead go toward schools or other issues.
“Please ask yourself: when was the last time you saw next-generation, world class technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted at the time.