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This article was published on April 29, 2021

NYPD sends terrifying robot dog back to the kennel after public backlash

AOC said it targeted low-income communities of color

NYPD sends terrifying robot dog back to the kennel after public backlash
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC. Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC.

A terrifying robot dog that’s been prowling New York’s streets over the past few months is being sent back to the pound.

The NYPD had been leasing the quadruped from Boston Dynamics since last year, but canceled the contract last week after a public backlash.

“This is a casualty of politics, bad information, and cheap sound bytes,” John Miller, the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told The New York Times. “We should have named it ‘Lassie’.”

The device has attracted controversy ever since it was unveiled in December.

Inspector Frank Digiacomo told ABC 7 at the time that the machine “is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal.” But sightings of the robot in the Bronx and a public housing building in Manhattan triggered concerns that it was targeting low-income communities of color.

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Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among the most vociferous critics. She described the device as a “robotic surveillance ground drone” and argued that the investment in the robot should have been spent elsewhere.

New York’s city council responded to the outcry by issuing a subpoena to find out how the robot cost, which revealed that the NYPD had a $94,000 contract with Boston Dynamics to lease the device. The contract was due to end in August, but was terminated four months early due to the uproar.

The NYPD said it’s used robots to respond to dangerous situations for almost 50 years. But with calls to defund the police continuing to resonate, the department’s deployment of robot dogs on New York streets was seriously bad optics.

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