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How police departments are putting robot dogs to work

The future of policing is here — is your department ready to take the next step?

In recent years, police departments nationwide have increasingly utilized advanced technology, notably tactical robots like Digidog, to enhance public safety and efficiency. These robots, particularly deployed in high-risk situations such as standoffs with barricaded or armed suspects, aim to reduce the risk to human officers by leveraging smart technology.

Despite initial debates over privacy and the potential militarization of police, the NYPD reintegrated Digidog into their operations. In contrast, San Francisco has temporarily halted the use of lethal-force-capable robots following public opposition, reflecting a cautious stance on such technology deployment.

For a closer look at how police departments are utilizing tactical robots, check out the social posts below. These posts showcase real-life applications, from critical incident interventions to boosting law enforcement capabilities with these technological advancements, providing insight into the evolving landscape of policing.

1. ‘Roscoe’ the robot dog with Massachusetts State Police

In a recent incident in Barnstable, Mass., the State Police Bomb Squad deployed Roscoe, a SPOT four-legged robot, among other robotic aids, to safely manage an armed standoff.

Roscoe played a pivotal role in assessing the threat by entering the residence, which prevented the immediate need for human intervention and potentially saved lives. Despite being targeted and shot at three times by the suspect, Roscoe’s use underscored the significant benefits of incorporating advanced technology like robotic platforms in tactical law enforcement operations to enhance safety and operational efficiency.

“The incident provided a stark example of the benefits of mobile platforms capable of opening doors and ascending stairs in tactical missions involving armed suspects. In addition to providing critically important room clearance and situational awareness capabilities, the insertion of Roscoe into the suspect residence prevented the need, at that stage of response, to insert human operators and a real dog, and may have prevented a police officer or K-9 from being involved in an exchange of gunfire,” the department wrote on Facebook.

2. Taylor (Michigan) Police Department adds ‘RADDOG’ to lineup

Last month, the Taylor City Council OK’d a one-year lease for the department’s “RADDOG” robot dog. It was recently delivered to police headquarters, where the quadruped robot dog has already been put in service.

“Instead of putting that officer at risk and possibly escalating a situation, we can send our robotic dog and take a look, be our eyes and ears and give us a layout of what’s inside, where officers may have to encounter them at a later time,” Taylor Police Department Chief John Blair told CBS News Detroit. “We feel it’s very valuable and can potentially save lives, prevent injury and prevent officers from having to use serious force, including deadly force.”

3. Meet Houston (Texas) PD’s robot dogs — SPOT and Hal

The Houston Police Department’s Tactical Operations Division has recently welcomed two robotic additions, SPOT and Hal, aimed at enhancing safety and efficiency in high-risk operations. These robots allow for remote investigation and assessment of dangerous scenarios, significantly reducing the risk to officers. SPOT, in particular, has been operational since December 2021, proving invaluable in safely searching buildings for suspects. The acquisition, supported by donations, underscores the department’s commitment to leveraging technology to protect officers from harm.

4. Miami-Dade (Florida) Police Department’s Special Response Team introduces SPOT

“A trained police officer operates the robot through a simple touch screen pad offering a number of capabilities, including two-way communications, opening doors, retrieving objects, climbing stairs and offering visual feedback to the operator,” a Miami-Dade police officer says in the department’s Facebook video. “SPOT will be utilized on all barricaded subject and hostage rescue incidents where there is a value in introducing technology to gain valuable information rather than placing officers in harm’s way.”

5. Honolulu (Hawaii) Police Department’s robotic partner

The department is primarily using its robot dog for humanitarian purposes. For example, SPOT was deployed to screen the homeless population for COVID-19 symptoms during the pandemic. The department said utilizing the robot minimized the risk of transmission for first responders, showcasing an innovative application of technology in public health efforts.

Need more information about the selection and purchasing steps for tactical robots?

We have updated our comprehensive guide on purchasing tactical robots. This resource aims to shed light on the technological, ethical and legal considerations of adopting robotic aids in law enforcement operations, ensuring that interested parties are well-informed about the latest developments in this rapidly evolving field.

Fully autonomous, AI-driven robots have become essential tools for enhancing safety and operational efficiency in law enforcement, marking a significant evolution in police capabilities

Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of and, is the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.