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Criminal Justice

LA City Council Puts Off Decision On Controversial Robot Dog Until May

A four-legged robot has yellow legs and is shaped like a dog. A camera sits where a head would be.
This photograph shows Boston Dynamics' SPOT robot dog on the opening day of the MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona on Feb. 28, 2022. The LPAD has a proposal in front of City Hall to acquire a donated model.
(Pau Barrena
AFP via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles City Council has delayed a decision on whether to accept a donated four-legged robot dog for use by the L.A. Police Department.

The decision at Tuesday's meeting to postpone a vote came after a public safety committee recommended going forward earlier this year in a 4-1 vote.

The $278,000 robot would be donated by the L.A. Police Foundation, a non-profit group that has "awarded more than $44 million in grants to the LAPD" since 1998, according to its website.

The robot dog has been highly controversial and public comments Tuesday were full of people objecting to its use.

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What exactly is a robot dog?

Officially known as a "Quadru-ped Unmanned Ground Vehicle," the robot, according to LAPD documentation "refers to a ground vehicle operated on four legs without an onboard human presence."

What would it be used for?

LAPD officials have said it would be used by SWAT officers in life-threatening situations, specifically: "The QUGV will be assigned exclusively to Metropolitan Division's SWAT team and shall be reserved for use in high-risk incidents that meet SWAT deployment criteria."

According to documentation filed by the LAPD with the city council, permissible uses are:

Who is for the robot, and who is against it?

In January, four of the five members of the public safety committee voted to recommend that the city accept the donation.

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On Tuesday, Councilmembers John Lee and Traci Park said the robot can save lives.

Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez objected, countering that the robot could be used to target Black and Latino communities.

"In New York, the city council moved forward," she said. "They implemented them and some of the first places they used them on were public housing, housing for Black, Brown and low-income people."

What's next?

The vote has been rescheduled to May 5.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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