The NYPD will return a robot dog after it was condemned for targeting ‘low income communities of color’ with the dystopian four-legged surveillance machine.
John Miller, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told the New York Daily News on Wednesday that the NYPD had cancelled its $94,000 contract with Boston Dynamics.
Miller on Wednesday defended the metal canine, known as a DigiDog, from claims from critics like progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who called it a ‘robotic surveillance ground drone’.
‘Shout out to everyone who fought against community advocates who demanded these resources go to investments like school counseling instead,’ Ocacio-Cortez had tweeted on February 25.
‘Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools.’
She added: ‘Please ask yourself: when was the last time you saw next-generation, world class technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?’
The NYPD defended the metal canine from critics like AOC who had said it was a ‘surveillance ground drone’ being ‘deployed for testing on low-income communities of color’
A video shows the Digidog being tested by NYPD officers
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio had told the NYPD to ‘rethink’ its contract with Boston Dynamics over the Digidog
Miller told the Daily News: ‘It was never a piece of ‘surveillance equipment.’ Some people who had an agenda tried to make it out to be for spying. Really?’
‘It was loud when it walked, had a camera for a head, flashing lights and a speaker and a police officer could use to communicate if needed. It wasn’t exactly going to be shadowing anyone down the street or hiding in a doorway on surveillance.’
Miller called the claims of surveillance ‘misinformed’ and accused them of damaging ‘public trust.’
‘This is a piece of equipment we won’t have when it could make police officers or victims safer,’ he said.
At a press briefing earlier this month, de Blasio had called videos of the robot ‘unsettling’ and told the NYPD to ‘rethink’ how it uses robots like the Digidog.
‘I haven’t seen it, but I certainly share the concern that if in any way it’s unsettling to people, we should rethink the equation,’ de Blasio said.
‘I don’t know what is being done to test it — I’ll certainly talk to the commissioner about it. I don’t want people to feel that something is happening that they don’t know about. So we’ll work that out.’
Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio, told The New York Times on Wednesday that he was ‘glad the Digidog was put down.’
‘It’s creepy, alienating and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers,’ Neidhardt said.
The $94,000 contract in which the NYPD leased the dog was scheduled to end in August but was terminated on April 22, outlets reported.
Details regarding the contract were revealed after a subpoena was sent from NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Councilman Ben Kallos.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Boston Dynamics for more information and additional comment.
On its website, Boston Dynamics calls the dog Spot, and claims ‘Spot is not designed to conduct mass surveillance, or to replace police officers.’
‘The robot has been used to help humans remotely evaluate potentially dangerous situations that include explosives or other environments where the risk to human health and safety is high,’ the company notes.
‘In addition, Boston Dynamics’ Terms and Conditions prohibit the use of Spot to harm or intimidate people or animals. Terms also require compliance with all applicable laws, including privacy laws.’
The dog appeared at crime scenes in February when two men were being held hostage in an apartment in the Bronx borough of New York City, however its use was quickly blasted by everyone from local politicians to late night hosts
The company claims that Spot helps police and fire departments with visibility during potentially dangerous situations and lets them assess a scene before taking action – which can ‘improve safety and de-escalate conflict.’
The dog appeared at crime scenes in February when two men were being held hostage in an apartment in the Bronx borough of New York City. The men had been ‘threatened at gunpoint, tied up and tortured for hours,’ The New York Times reported at the time.
However, the use of the dog was quickly blasted on The Daily Show by host Trevor Noah.
‘Wow, a robot dog? What a cool way for the police to say they have too much money and should be defunded,’ Noah said.
The robot dog has faced comparison’s to an episode of the British dystopian show Black Mirror – which the show’s creator has said was actually inspired by similar robots made by Boston Dynamics.
Black Mirror series creator Charlie Brooker said the ‘Metalhead’ episode was inspired in part by Boston Dynamics, Entertainment Weekly reported.
‘That’s actually scarily correct. It was from watching Boston Dynamics videos,’ he said.
However, Miller described comparing Spot with the vicious robots in Black Mirror as ‘a reach.’
‘When people have to borrow from fantasy to come up with a rationale, it is a reach,’ he told the Daily News.
‘Cops have to deal with real world situations, and I need real world tools.’