New York City officials have unveiled three new high-tech policing devices Tuesday, including a robotic dog that critics called creepy when it first joined the police pack 2 1/2 years ago.
In April 2021, the city’s law enforcement officials had sent Digidog back to Boston Dynamics, the company that produces the machines after New York residents complained its use was an unsettling and unnecessary expansion of aggressive policing.
The Digidog was first revealed by the police department in December 2020. It had caused a stir due to its uncanny resemblance to a fictional dystopian killer robot dog featured in an episode of popular science fiction series Black Mirror.
NYC mayor Eric Adams announced on Tuesday at a press event that the Digidog would be brought back to use for “assessing hazardous situations” in the city, adding that it can “save lives”.
“The New York City Police Department has always been on the cutting edge of public safety. They upgrade, evaluate and innovate new ways to protect our city,” Mr Adams tweeted on Wednesday.
The NYPD had said the robot would be used to enter places that were “too dangerous” for officers.
Critics compared Digidog to a surveillance drone, following its use by law enforcement officials in a home invasion in the Bronx in 2021 and sparking fears it could be used as a dystopian overseer by the police.
“A few loud people were opposed to it, and we took a step back – that is not how I operate. I operate on looking at what’s best for the city.” Mr Adams said in an announcement on Wednesday, adding that the “technology is here”.
“We cannot be afraid of it,” he said.
New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had in a sarcastic 2021 tweet called out the use of the robot dog for “testing on low-income communities of colour with under-resourced schools”.
“Shout out to everyone who fought against community advocates who demanded these resources go to investments like school counseling instead,” she had tweeted.
The NYPD had then swiftly canceled its $94,000 lease contract with Boston Dynamics.
The police force, however, will now reportedly acquire two robot dogs for a total of $750,000.
The Digidogs are expected to only be used during life-threatening situations like bomb threats, the police force said according to the NYT.
The NYPD is also piloting two other technologies, including a handheld or car-mounted launcher which shoots GPS tags onto vehicles to help track them during chases and a machine described as a “fully autonomous outdoor security robot”.