Los Angeles Approves Cyber Dog for Police Work

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Spot Robot Boston Dynamics Public Domain

The Los Angeles City Council voted to allow a controversial “robot dog” to join the LA Police Department despite overwhelming public opposition.

The council voted 8-4 to allow the department to use the donated “Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle” even though public comments before the vote were negative and fearful.

The robot, valued at over $270,000, was donated by the Los Angeles Police Foundation, a non-profit that supports the officers and mission of the LAPD.

The robodog is called Spot by its creators at Boston Dynamics, which frequently releases videos of its robots moving in extraordinarily complex ways. A separate company, Levatas, recently integrated the Spot robot with ChatGPT to give it advanced cognitive inspection abilities.

According to a filing, the donation is meant to enhance officer safety as a first line responder to high-risk incidents.

However, critics say it isn’t necessary for a city police force and is ripe for misuse.

“This item is being painted as merely an acceptance of a donation, but it really represents an expansion of the current boundaries around policing and surveillance,” said Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez, who voted against approval.

One local resident called in to lambast the council over the phone.

“Your taking public comment is clearly performative,” they said. “After listening to overwhelming public comments, you vote the opposite way. New York City and San Francisco have already rejected these robot dogs. The LAPD does not need military weapons.”

Indeed, the New York Police Department employed similar robot technology in 2021 but canceled its use after fierce opposition. Reportedly, a Spot robot dog quietly made its way back onto the NYPD last month.

The NYPD announced it procured two Spot bots, which it pledged would not patrol communities. They’re intended to be used only in situations where robots are currently used, such as bomb-squad scenarios and search operations.

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