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NYPD returns robot dog to manufacturer after backlash

Police officials dismissed public comparisons to sci-fi dystopian films and TV shows

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Should the NYPD have returned its robot dog? Read Police1 columnists’ take on the issue here.

By Police1 Staff

NEW YORK — The NYPD will get rid of its robotic ‘Digidog’ after months of backlash that compared the tool to a dystopian surveillance nightmare, according to the New York Daily News.

The robotic pooch first caught the public eye in February when passersby saw police testing the AI at a crime scene. Video of the four-legged robot loping through city streets quickly went viral. An NYPD spokesperson at the time said officers were using the dog to help clear an active crime scene.

Now, police officials say Digidog will be returned to its manufacturer, according to the Daily News. John Miller, the NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, confirmed to the Daily News that the agency had canceled its contract with Boston Dynamics. However, Miller pushed back against criticism, saying the robot could be used to survey scenes like standoffs, hostage situations, chemical spills and other scenarios where humans might be at risk.

“It was never a piece of ‘surveillance equipment.’ Some people who had an agenda tried to make it out to be for spying. Really?” said Miller to the Daily News. “It was loud when it walked, had a camera for a head, flashing lights and a speaker and a police officer could use to communicate if needed. It wasn’t exactly going to be shadowing anyone down the street or hiding in a doorway on surveillance.”

Some public criticism drew a comparison to the sci-fi horror television series “Black Mirror,” which featured a killer robot dog in one of its episodes.

Miller expressed frustration at these comparisons.

“When people have to borrow from fantasy to come up with a rationale, it is a reach,” he said. “Cops have to deal with real-world situations, and I need real-world tools.”

City Councilman Ben Kallos supported the decision to get rid of Digidog.

“Our city needs more community policing, officers connecting to residents, not scary military-style gadgets that scare folks,” Kallos said in an interview with the Daily News. “I am glad the robot dog has been put down and we can use the money that would have gone to buying more of these to invest in communities and building better relationships with residents.”