Published: 2021-04-15 09:54 pm
Is WiFido true blue or just a cop-out?
nypost.com

Robot dog or cop shot? Seems like a no-brainer. But the anti-police mob, including several pandering politicians who would be mayor, somehow have twisted this common-sense approach to policing into a threat to civil liberties.

This week, police responded to a report of a man with a gun holding a child hostage. If that’s not every officer’s worst nightmare, it ranks in the top five.

With any hostage, especially a child, involved, the responding officers must wait critical — perhaps fatal — seconds before they take any action, let alone firing a weapon.

If the hostage-taker really does have a gun, will he exercise the same restraint and hold his fire?

(image)
NYPD robot
Peter Gerber

The gunman knows where the door is and where the first police officer will enter. That first officer doesn’t know where the gunman is in the apartment. Is it dark in there? 

There’s a child involved, so no flash grenades or tear gas or other non-lethal measures to level the playing field.

Why not send in a robot with a light and video camera so we can get a look at the situation — with no risk to anyone? Using the robot’s two-way communication, the police hostage negotiator can attempt a dialogue with the hostage-taker.

All of this doesn’t guarantee a good outcome, but it increases the chances.

In this instance, the situation was resolved and the robot dog wasn’t needed. But the anti-cop mob sees the drone, no matter how non-lethal, no matter how common sense, as bad optics. 

You know what optic is truly terrible? The police officer funerals these same critics never attend.

The usual suspects are raising the issue of race, when race has nothing to do with it. They are citing fears for our civil liberties but not about the civil liberties of the people who could have been injured, or killed, in this encounter.

No one is commending the police for bringing this potentially very bad situation to a successful conclusion.

My heartfelt thanks to the officers who were prepared to risk their lives to save a child and to those who figured out how to resolve the situation without injury or loss of life.

And don’t think twice about using any means — even a robot dog — if that’s what it takes to have another such successful outcome in the future. 

As a New York Post reporter, Pat Smith wrote stories that led the New York Police Department to form a Canine Unit as a way to better protect our police and our citizens.

A recent viral video of a robot cop dog assisting police in arresting a man at a public-housing complex provoked no small amount of alarm among New Yorkers. As well it should. 

One mustn’t be deceived by their resemblance to man’s best friend. These deputized WiFidos are a different beast entirely, one that could come bristling with new capabilities to surveil and harass the public. 

Stationary CCTV cameras and facial-recognition technology already pose grave risks to citizens’ privacy. Robot cop dogs offer the possibility of combining and mobilizing this technology. The ability of police to track people going about their daily lives would dramatically increase.

That should concern anyone who thinks New Yorkers already have to put up with too many petty restrictions on their public behavior. 

People might not worry too much right now about being cited for jaywalking or sipping an open container. Human NYPD officers are too few and too busy to penalize most of those violations. An army of robot police dogs would make it much easier to identify and ticket minor scofflaws. 

Proponents of robot cop dogs might argue they’ll keep officers out of harm’s way. Indeed, one of the earliest uses of robot dogs by NYPD came earlier this year when one was deployed to check a building for the presence of two violent kidnappers during a hostage situation. 

Their use there isn’t troubling. Nevertheless, technology that makes police safer can also have the effect of encouraging them to use of force in more situations than is necessary. 

(image)
An NYPD officer with the robot.
Daniel Valls/FNTV freedomnews.tv

Bulletproof vests and armored vehicles keep police secure when kicking down a door. That security also encourages them to kick down more doors, even when public safety would be served just fine with a lesser show of force. How much more violent will police become when they can just sic a pack of robot dogs on any one they deem a threat? 

There’s one other reason to dislike robot police dogs: They’re freaking scary. One can easily see their power to intimidate in people’s reactions to them in filmed viral encounters. 

We should want the police and the public to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect. That’s missing in many communities today. It won’t arise if the most visible police presence in one’s neighborhood is a literal unfeeling beast. 

It’s true that flesh-and-blood police dogs present their own problems. They’re still preferable to their dystopian mechanical successors. 

Christian Britschgi is associate editor of Reason.

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