Now That We've Entered The Age Of Robocop, How About Ones That Detain, Rather Than Kill?

from the robocop dept

Well, the era of robocop has begun. As you've probably heard already, in order to get the sniper in Dallas who shot and killed a whole bunch of police, the Dallas police apparently sent in a bomb robot to detonate a bomb. Normally that robot is designed to save people from bombs, but in this case the police decided to use it to deliver a bomb and blow up the guy, Micah Xavier Johnson, accused of doing the shooting. The city apparently recently got 3 Remotec robots for its bomb squad:
Each one apparently costs about $200k. In asking around, it appears that those who are familiar with bomb robots can't find any examples of police using them in this way in the past. Though, of course, people have certainly raised the theoretical question of using remote automated systems, whether robots or drones, to take down killers who are on the loose.

The Dallas Police have a long history of engaging in community policing designed to de-escalate situations, rather than encourage antagonism between police and the community, have been handling all of this with astounding restraint, frankly. Many other police departments would be lashing out, and yet the Dallas Police Dept, while obviously grieving for a horrible situation, appear to be handling this tragic situation professionally. And it appears that they did everything they could in a reasonable manner. They first tried to negotiate with Johnson, but after that failed and they feared more lives would be lost, they went with the robot + bomb option. And, obviously, considering he had already shot many police officers, I don't think anyone would question the police justification if they had shot Johnson.

But, still, at the very least, the whole situation raises a lot of questions about the legality of police using a bomb offensively to blow someone up. And, it raises some serious questions about how other police departments might use this kind of technology in the future. The situation here appears to be one where people reasonably concluded that this was the most effective way to stop further bloodshed. And this is a police department with a strong track record of reasonable behavior. But what about other police departments where they don't have that kind of history? What are the protocols for sending in a robot or drone to kill someone? Are there any rules at all?

Furthermore, it actually makes you wonder, why isn't there a focus on using robots to de-escalate these situations? What if, instead of buying military surplus bomb robots, there were robots being designed to disarm a shooter, or detain him in a manner that would make it easier for the police to capture him alive? Why should the focus of remote robotic devices be to kill him? This isn't faulting the Dallas Police Department for its actions last night. But, rather, if we're going to enter the age of robocop, shouldn't we be looking for ways to use such robotic devices in a manner that would help capture suspects alive, rather than dead?

Filed Under: bomb robot, dallas police, robocop

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 9 Jul 2016 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re: Extrajudicial Killing

    I dunno. Making the (never correct) assumption that the news reports are reasonably complete and correct, then it's pretty easy to argue that lethal force was not necessary, or at least not at that time. All that was needed was to evacuate the area that he could shoot into and wait. Sooner or later, he would have to either emerge or kill himself.

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