New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Public Safety

We must work together to keep our neighborhood safe from crime and emergencies like construction accidents. In the wake of the two crane collapses on the Upper East Side last year that claimed 9 lives, we must increase financial support for emergency services, improve construction regulation and community notice, as well as expand our&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/get_prepared/cert.shtml&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>Community Emergency Response Teams</strong></a>.

The Verge The NYPD is sending its controversial robot dog back to the pound by James Vincent

The NYPD is sending its controversial robot dog back to the pound

Critics say the machine illustrated the unnecessary militarization of the police

The New York Police Department has canceled its trial of a robot dog made by US firm Boston Dynamics after receiving fierce criticism regarding the “dystopian” technology.

“The contract has been terminated and the dog will be returned,” a spokesperson for the NYPD told the New York PostJohn Miller, the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told The New York Times that the machine was “a casualty of politics, bad information and cheap sound bytes.” Said Miller: “People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil.”

The NYPD began leasing the machine nicknamed Digidog last year. “This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” said the NYPD’s Frank Digiacomo in an interview with ABC7. The robot was deployed roughly half a dozen times during its tenure, mostly acting as a mobile camera in potentially hostile environments.

THE ROBOT DOG WAS DEPLOYED ROUGHLY HALF A DOZEN TIMES, MOSTLY AS MOBILE SURVEILLANCE

“The NYPD has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents,” said the department in February. “This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.”

Many, though, saw the robot as a symbol of both wasteful police spending and increasingly aggressive tactics being deployed by law enforcement. “Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” tweeted NYC Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February.

In response to outcry over the machine, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos proposed a law that would ban the police from owning or operating weaponized robots. “I don’t think anyone was anticipating that they’d actually be used by the NYPD right now,” Kallos told Wired earlier this year. ”I have no problem with using a robot to defuse a bomb, but it has to be the right use of a tool and the right type of circumstance.”

Kallos told the Times this week that deploying Digidog on the streets of New York City highlighted the ongoing “militarization of the police.” Said Kallos: “At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots.”

AROUND 500 SPOT UNITS ARE IN USE, MAINLY IN INDUSTRIAL SETTINGS

Spot, as the machine is called by creators Boston Dynamics, has never been weaponized, and doing so would break the company’s terms of service. But it is being deployed in increasingly controversial situations. Although the company has currently sold or leases around 500 Spot units, with most of the robots being used in commercial and industrial settings, such machines are of increasing interest to both law enforcement and military users.

Earlier this month, it emerged that the French military has been testing Spot in combat exercises. Boston Dynamics told The Verge at the time that while it knew the robot was being leased to the army, it was unaware it was being used in these exact scenarios. Spot was not weaponized in these exercises but used by soldiers for forward surveillance.

Speaking to The New York Times, a spokesperson for Boston Dynamics said, “We support local communities reviewing the allocation of public funds, and believe Spot is a cost-effective tool comparable to historical robotic devices used by public safety to inspect hazardous environments.”

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New York Post NYPD’s robot dog will be returned after outrage by Tamar Lapin

NYPD’s robot dog will be returned after outrage

Kallos, who has proposed legislation to ban NYPD from using any weaponized robots or drones, told the Times that the dog underscored what he called the “militarization of the police.”

“At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots,” the Manhattan rep said.

New York Daily News NYPD returns ‘scary’ robot dog to manufacturer after backlash by John Annese

NYPD returns ‘scary’ robot dog to manufacturer after backlash

Kallos — who issued a subpoena to learn that the NYPD leased Digidog at $7,850 a month for 12 months, with a minimum payment of $94,200 — cheered the robot’s return to its maker.

“Our city needs more community policing, officers connecting to residents, not scary military-style gadgets that scare folks,” the Upper East Side Democrat said. “We did the work to find out how much was spent on this and we put pressure on the city to adjust priorities. I am glad the robot dog has been put down and we can use the money that would have gone to buying more of these to invest in communities and building better relationships with residents.”

New York Times N.Y.P.D. Robot Dog’s Run Is Cut Short After Fierce Backlash by Mihir Zaveri

N.Y.P.D. Robot Dog’s Run Is Cut Short After Fierce Backlash

Mr. Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, took a different position, saying the device’s presence in New York underscored what he called the “militarization of the police.” He said the robotic dogs resembled those featured in the 2017 “Metalhead” episode of the television show “Black Mirror.”

“At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots,” he said.

New York Post City council subpoenas NYPD for cost of robot dog by David Meyer

City council subpoenas NYPD for cost of robot dog

The city council wants to force NYPD to reveal the cost of its new “Digidog,” days after Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested the city “rethink” its use of the dystopian police robot dog.

Council leaders on Monday subpoenaed the NYPD for any robot-related contracts or agreements with Boston Dynamics, the company behind the four-legged robo-cop.

“The public should know how much each of these devices is costing the city,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who issued the subpoena along with Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

New York Post De Blasio says ‘we should rethink’ NYPD’s robot dog over public concerns by Sam Raskin, Amanda Woods

De Blasio says ‘we should rethink’ NYPD’s robot dog over public concerns

The NYPD needs to “rethink” its new “Digidog,” Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday — a day after a clip of the robotic dog in action went viral and sent tongues wagging.

Hizzoner hesitated when he was questioned about the video, which been viewed more than 8 million times and left some to compare the programmable pooch to an episode of “Black Mirror.”

“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 at his daily press briefing. “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.”

The clip showed the “Digidog” casually strolling out of a housing project in Manhattan following the arrest of Luis Gonzales, 41, an NYPD rep said Tuesday.

Cops arrived to the scene to find Gonzales sequestered inside an apartment with a mother and baby, who exited unharmed, the NYPD said. Gonzales was apprehended after about two hours of negotiations.

Gothamist NYPD Deploys "Creepy" New Robot Dog In Manhattan Public Housing Complex by JAKE OFFENHARTZ

NYPD Deploys "Creepy" New Robot Dog In Manhattan Public Housing Complex

The NYPD's robot dog is once again stirring privacy concerns and cyberpunk prophesies of some New Yorkers, after the four-legged machine was spotted inside of a Manhattan public housing complex on Monday.

A video shared on Twitter shows the robot trotting out of a building on East 28th Street in front of two NYPD officers, then slowly descending the stairs as bystanders look on in shock. "I've never seen nothing like this before in my life," one woman can be heard saying.

The remote-controlled bot was made by Boston Dynamics, a robotics company famous for its viral videos of machines dancing and running with human-like dexterity. (Versions of "Spot," as the mechanical dog is known, can open doors, and are strong enough to help tow an 18-wheeler.)

Since October, the NYPD has dispatched the robot to a handful of crime scenes and hostage situations, raising fears of unwanted surveillance and questions about the department's use of public dollars. The mobile dog, which comes equipped with automated sensors, lights, and cameras capable of collecting "limitless data," is sold at a starting price of $74,000.

A spokesperson for the NYPD said the robot dog was on standby, but not used, during a domestic dispute at East 28th Street on Monday afternoon. After a man allegedly barricaded himself inside a room with a mother and her baby, officers showed up and convinced him to let them exit. The man was arrested for weapons possession, police said.

Daily Dot The first-ever bill to ban armed robot police dogs is coming by Andrew Wyrich

The first-ever bill to ban armed robot police dogs is coming

Kallos' bill would make it so that any kind of autonomous robot used by police—like robot police dogs or drones—that interacts with the public in the future doesn't have weaponry attached to it, his office said in a statement.

In the statement, Kallos said he wanted to make sure the city didn't feel "like a Black Mirror episode."

"The technology to arm robots already exists and in order to prevent anything like that from happening we have to act now, before the technology gets ahead of the laws," Kallos said.

As Wired notes, Boston Dynamics prohibits attaching weapons as part of the company's terms of service. But the potential for arming robot police dogs is not farfetched.

New York Post Councilman Ben Kallos wants to ban NYPD from using ‘weaponized robots’ by David Meyer

Councilman Ben Kallos wants to ban NYPD from using ‘weaponized robots’

The NYPD has not disclosed the cost of each “Digidog,” Kallos said.

“People are already concerned about militarizing police, and this is stopping them before they get any further,” he said.

“We passed a bill back in the city council that they were supposed to disclose that they were using these robots, and they didn’t. So who knows what’s in store?”

He is also exploring ways to limit NYPD use of aerial drones, which are regulated on the federal level.

“Whether it’s robots or drones, we need to move away from overpolicing communities and get back to the basics of investing in people and giving people the resources they need,” Kallos said.

REAL ESTATE WEEKLY Drones could soon be used for inspecting NYC buildings by Editorial Board

Drones could soon be used for inspecting NYC buildings

council members Robert Cornegy and Ben Kallos sponsored the bill to conduct a study into the use of drones after lamenting on the 303 miles of scaffolding that crowds NYC streets.

According to Kallos, “If laid out side to side, city scaffolding would stretch from Central Park to the Canadian border. The average age of a sidewalk shed is 308 days. One is old enough to have its bar mitzvah, which is 13, and some are old enough to vote.”