Should RI Ban Police From Using Robots or Robot Dogs? Bill Gets Hearing This Week

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

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PHOTO :: Boston Dynamics’ ‘Spot’ being tested alongside British Royal Air Force service members. Public Domain / US Air Force Ennis

A bill to ban police in Rhode Island from using or procuring robots or police robot dogs will be heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

2022-S 2515, sponsored by Senator Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) asserts that a law enforcement officer means any permanently employed city or town police officer, state police officer, or peace officer, and establishes the following :

* “Police robot dog” means any machine, that looks similar in appearance to a dog, that can collect information, process it, and use it to act upon the world and is operated either autonomously by computers or by an individual remotely.
* “Robot” means any machine that can collect information, process it, and use it to act upon the world and is operated either autonomously by computers or by an individual remotely.
* “UAVs” is an acronym that means unmanned aerial vehicles.
* “Unmanned aerial vehicles” means an aircraft that is navigated without a pilot on board.
* “Weapon” means a device designed to inflict death or serious physical injury.

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In calling for the use of robots to be prohibited, the bill stipulates that no law enforcement officer shall, while carrying out their duties, whether on-duty or off-duty, “authorize the use, attempted use or threatened use of a robot, police robot dog, or UAVs armed with any weapon;

No law enforcement officers shall, while carrying out their duties, whether on-duty or off-duty, authorize the use of a robot, police robot dog, or UAVs in a physical manner that is substantially likely to cause death or serious physical injury, regardless of whether or not the robot or UAV is armed with a weapon;

No department that employs peace officers shall receive or accept any public or private financial funding for the purchase or procurement of any police robot dogs. “

Robot Dog’s Stint in NY Cut Short

“NYPD Robot Dog’s Run Is Cut Short After Fierce Backlash,” reported the New York Times in 2021:

“When the Police Department acquired a robotic dog last year, officials heralded the four-legged device as a futuristic tool that could go places that were too dangerous to send officers.

‘This dog is going to save lives,’ Inspector Frank Digiacomo of the department’s technical Assistance Response Unit said in a television interview in December. ‘It’s going to protect people. It’s going to protect officers. ‘

Instead, the machine, which the police named Digidog, became a source of heated debate. After it was seen being deployed as part of the response to a home invasion in the Bronx in February, critics likened it to a dystopian surveillance drone.

And when officers used it at a public housing building in Manhattan this month, a backlash erupted again, with some people describing the device as emblematic of how overly aggressive the police can be when dealing with poor communities. ”

PHOTO: Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” being tested alongside British Royal Air Force service members. Public Domain / US Air Force Ennis

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