The New York Police Department is reenlisting robots to fight crime, Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday. The NYPD experimented with robot policing in 2021, but faced considerable backlash from residents and activists concerned with profiling in minority and underprivileged communities as well as saying the technology is dystopian.
“The prior administration didn’t have a mayor that was a computer geek and that was willing to go where others are not willing to go to keep the city safe,” the New York mayor said in a press conference Tuesday in Times Square. “I made it clear on the campaign trail, I am going to use technology with transparency to keep this city safe. And others just weren’t willing to do that, and I am.”
“The prior administration didn’t have a mayor that was a computer geek and that was willing to go where others are not willing to go to keep the city safe.”
— New York City Mayor Eric Adams
Democrat Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell introduced the robotic dogs in the middle of Times Squares on Tuesday, April11. The NYPD now has two Digidog, or “Spot,” robots in their fleet. (NYC Mayors Office via Twitter)
Robot dogs being used by police departments for patrol services. (CyberGuy.com)
Adam’s office assured residents that the new technologies are not going to be intrusive, saying that the NYPD wants to “use technology, not abuse technology.”
“As the mayor has repeatedly said, he is a big believer in technology. But these technologies are not going to be intrusive. We want to use technology, not abuse technology,” Fabien Levy, Adams’s press secretary said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“We want to use technology, not abuse technology.”
— Fabien Levy, Eric Adam’s Press Secretary
“That is why for the next three days we are displaying the K5 robot in Times Square for New Yorkers to ask questions and see the technology, and why we conducted tests of all three pieces of technology in front of a large crowd at the crossroads of the world today,” Fabien said. “We want to educate New Yorkers on what each piece of technology can do and specifically the limited circumstances in which each piece of technology can do.”
Adams and the NYPD assured residents that the robots will “allow our cops to do our job better, keep them safer, and keep the public safer.”
Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell introduced the three new additions to the NYPD, including two Digidogs robots, dubbed “Spot” by the Mayor’s office, a “K5” Unit and a StarChase’s GPS system.
K5 Autonomous Security Robot uses an automated patrol in confined areas both indoors and outdoors, such as transit stations. The NYPD described it as a “game changer.” (NYC Mayor’s Office via Twitter)
Officials said that the Boston Dynamics Digidogs are designed to assist officers in hostage situations, while the “K5” unit is an autonomous security robot used for patrolling confined areas, such as the transit system.
The StarChase’s GPS system is a handheld or vehicle-mounted device that discharges a GPS-enabled projectile at a car in order to track it, officials explained in the press conference.
The city paid $750,000 for the robotic canines using money that was seized from criminals, an NYPD official said, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The NYPD does not own the “K5” unit and the StarChase’s GPS system yet, officials explained. The agency plans on leasing one of each in June or July as part of a six-month pilot program.
The K5 is being leased for six months at a cost of roughly $9 per hour, according to Knightscope Chairman and CEO William Santana Li. The total cost will be around $12,250, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The StarChase’s system provides a means to track vehicles by using a projectile that attaches a GPS enabled device which can then be tracked remotely. The StarChase GPS system is on lease to the NYPD. (NYC Mayor’s Office via Twitter)
In April 2021, former New York City Bill De Blasio ordered the controversial robotic dog undergoing trials off the street, and a $94,200 contract with Boston Dynamics canceled.
“Digidog is out of the pound,” Adams declared in Tuesday’s press conference.
“Digidog is out of the pound!”
— New York City Mayor Eric Adams
Despite the NYPD only using the then-leased Boston Dynamic robotic dog on a handful of occasions, residents and public officials alike were quick to call the 70-pound robot creepy and dystopian.
The robot was used successfully in a hostage situation in the Bronx and an incident at a public housing building in Manhattan in 2020.
When the robotic hound was used at a Manhattan housing project, advocates called it a symbolic of police aggression in minority and underprivileged communities. And others said it resembled the robots from the dystopian TV show “Black Mirror.”
“It was something that was introduced previously, under a previous administration and a few loud people were opposed to it, and we took a step back,” Adams noted in the press conference on Tuesday. “That is not how I operate. I operate on looking at what’s best for the city.”
The San Francisco Police, bomb investigating robot, returns from down 16th street after looking over the device. The San Francsico Police bomb squard closed of 16th street between Folson and Harrison Streets, in San Francsico, Calif. (Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
In San Francisco, California, authorities have proposed policy that would allow its robots to use deadly force in situations where someone’s life is in danger and other dangerous instances.
A draft policy by the San Francisco Police Department outlines how it would use its 17 remote-controlled, unmanned robots, which are often used to defuse bombs and deal with hazardous materials.
“The robots listed in this section shall not be utilized outside of training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessment,” the draft states. “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.”
In Oakland, California, authorities were considering using armed robots, according to a report. However, leaders decided against it.