On Wednesday, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) announced that it would no longer be utilizing a robotic “dog” that had been built for the department by a company in Massachusetts, as reported by the New York Post.
Images of the robot, named “Digdog,” went viral and sparked universal backlash from civilians and politicians, with the machine being variously described as dystopian and an example of massive surveillance overreach by the police. After being subpoenaed by the New York City Council over the use of the robot, the NYPD revealed that the contract with Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics had cost approximately $94,000 for just the one robot alone.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-N.Y.) said that the NYPD should “rethink” the use of such a machine. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) referred to it as a “robotic surveillance ground drone.”
A spokesman for the NYPD confirmed that the department had ended its contract with Boston Dynamics, which had originally been set to expire in August, and would be returning the machine to the company.
Some on the NYPD pointed out that before ending the contract, the department’s use of the robot had even been described as racist, with some baselessly claiming that the surveillance was disproportionately focusing on minorities. John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism with the NYPD, said that “people had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil.”
City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-N.Y.), who represents Manhattan, said that the use of such a robot in the midst of an ongoing decline in the number of actual police officers on the force displayed a lack of priorities.
“At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents,” Kallos said, “they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots.” Kallos also declared that such a decision represented an attempted “militarization of the police.”