Controversial ‘Black Mirror’ robot dogs brought back on New York police force

New York is bringing back the controversial robot dogs to its police force nearly two years after they were suspended after backlash from residents.

‘Digidog is out of the pound,’ said Mayor Eric Adams, who is a former police officer. ‘Digidog is now part of the toolkit that we are using.’

The Digidog was first added to New York’s police department in 2020. It had caused a stir due to its uncanny resemblance to a fictional dystopian killer robot dog featured in an episode of popular science fiction series Black Mirror.

In April 2021, the city’s law enforcement officials sent Digidog back to Boston Dynamics, the company that produces the machines after residents complained of racism as it only patrolled low-income neighbourhoods occupied by people of colour.

This time, Mayor Adams said he won’t bow to anti-robot dog pressure.

‘A few loud people were opposed to it and we took a step back,’ said the mayor. ‘That is not how I operate. I operate on looking at what’s best for the city.’

The remote-controlled, 32-kilogram Digidog will be deployed in risky situations like hostage standoffs starting this summer.

The New York Police Department’s pilot program for using the system will last 90 days, officials said.

In addition to the robot dogs, an Autonomous Security Robot, which Adams compared to a Roomba, will be deployed inside the Times Square subway station in a seven-month pilot program starting this summer.

The device, used in shopping centres and other locations for several years, will at first be joined by a human partner, police said.

Civil libertarians and police reform advocates have questioned the need for the high-tech devices in policing.

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