New York Councillor Proposes Law To Ban Police Using Armed Robots

by : Cameron Frew on :
New York Councillor Proposes Law To Ban Police Using Armed RobotsPics: TriStar Pictures/Adam Savage’s Tested/YouTube

A New York City councillor wants to ban police from using armed robots after the ‘horror’ of seeing Boston Dynamics’ Digidog in action.

Robot dogs have been a major topic of conversation, whether it’s their use by the US military or Black Mirror giving us plenty of reasons to be terrified of them.


While it would appear we’re far away from the rollout of RoboCop or a trigger-happy ED-09, councilmember Ben Kallos has proposed a law which would see the use of armed robots by the city’s police prohibited.

Asreported by Ars Technica, Kallos said: ‘I don’t think anyone was anticipating that they’d actually be used by the NYPD right now. I have no problem with using a robot to defuse a bomb, but it has to be the right use of a tool and the right type of circumstance.’

The Digidog had been used as part of a hostage situation in the Bronx last month, gathering intel on the house before police arrested the culprits.


The NYPD said in an earlier statement that it’s ‘been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations and hazmat incidents. This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our Emergency Service Unit and Bomb Squad.’

New York Councillor Proposes Law To Ban Police Using Armed RobotsPA Images

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Patrick Lin, the director of the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, who supports the ban, warned: ‘Nonlethal robots could very well morph into lethal ones. Robots can save police lives, and that’s a good thing, But we also need to be careful it doesn’t make a police force more violent.’

However, Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter assured: ‘All of our buyers, without exception, must agree that Spot will not be used as a weapon or configured to hold a weapon. As an industry, we think robots will achieve long-term commercial viability only if people see robots as helpful, beneficial tools without worrying if they’re going to cause harm.’


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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Technology, New York, robots


Ars Technica
  1. Ars Technica

    New York lawmaker wants to ban police use of armed robots