Support for LAist comes from
Made of L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Criminal Justice

Los Angeles City Council In Split Vote Approves Controversial $280K Robot Dog For LAPD

A pair of bright yellow four-legged robots are marked "Boston Dynamics" in a room with heavy patterned carpet as people look on.
Boston Dynamics robotic dogs on demonstration in a conference in Las Vegas in 2019. The LAPD has a proposal in front of City Hall to acquire a donated model.
(Mark Ralston
AFP via Getty Images)
Support your source for local news!
The local news you read here every day is crafted for you, but right now, we need your help to keep it going. In these uncertain times, your support is even more important. Today, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership. Thank you.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 8-4 Tuesday to accept the controversial donation of four-legged robot dog for use by the L.A. Police Department.

Why the robot dog is controversial

At issue is whether the use of robotics is ultimately safer or more dangerous for the police using the technology and the people interacting with law enforcement.

At the council meeting, Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez called the move to more law enforcement automation highly disturbing. Soto-Martínez, who was one of the no votes, said accepting the pricey donation "sets a dangerous precedent for our future in our community safety."

Support for LAist comes from

The matter initially came before the council in March, when it was delayed after a series of speakers opposed the move. At that time councilmembers John Lee and Traci Park said the robot can save lives.

Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, who was not present for Tuesday's vote, objected back in March, arguing that the robot could be used to target Black and Latino communities.

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

How the vote broke down

Voting yes: Bob Blumenfield, Kevin de León, John Lee, Tim McOsker, Traci Park, Monica Rodriguez, Katie Young Yaroslavsky, and Paul Krekorian.

Voting no: Heather Hutt, Curren Price, Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martínez.

Absent: Eunisses Hernandez, Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

What exactly is a robot dog?

A "Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle," according to LAPD documentation, "refers to a ground vehicle operated on four legs without an onboard human presence."

Support for LAist comes from

What to expect next

To address concerns about possible misuse of the robot dog, Yaroslavsky introduced an amendment that requires the LAPD to deliver quarterly reports on its usage, its outcomes and any issues about the use of it. It was approved by the council.

Council members also retain the ability to alter the policy or suspend the robot's services at any time.

In a statement, the LAPD said it would begin using the robot dog after training and testing in the coming months.

"We will continue to explore new technologies and tools to enhance public safety efforts and better serve our communities," the statement said.

How the robot dog will be used

According to the LAPD's statement after the approval:

The QUGV shall not be equipped with any weapon systems including any non-lethal or less-lethal weapon technology, shall not be equipped with or use any facial recognition software or analysis capabilities, and the QUGV shall not be used for routine patrol duties or covert surveillance operations.

In that same news release, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said he was "appreciative of the approval today by the majority of the City Council in accepting the donation of the Los Angeles Police Foundation in acquiring this state-of-the-art mechanical robot."

"This technology will allow us to better protect our officers and the community allowing us to use modern technology to deescalate dangerous situations," he said.

LAPD officials previously 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:

The costs and who is donating

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

A public safety committee recommended going forward with accepting the gift earlier this year in a 4-1 vote.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

Updated May 23, 2023 at 4:20 PM PDT
This story was updated with the full council vote, an LAPD statement and additional context.
Most Read