Good Riddance

After Public Rage, NYPD Secretly Fires Robot Dog

The contract with Boston Dynamics was quietly cut short.

Apr 29 by Victor Tangermann
Victor Tangermann
Image by Victor Tangermann

After facing significant backlash for deploying a robot dog, the New York Police Department has decided to cut the experiment short sooner than expected, The New York Times reports.

The robot dog, dubbed Digidog, was a futuristic, four-legged machine built by Boston Dynamics, meant to be deployed in dangerous situations to protect officers.

But after the robot made several public appearances, the rollout was met with fierce criticism. The optics aren’t great: a lifeless machine traipsing around a crime scene isn’t exactly reassuring to the public.

Earlier this month, NYPD officers deployed Digidog at a public housing unit. Videos of the machine went viral on social media.

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“You can’t give me a living wage, you can’t raise a minimum wage, you can’t give me affordable housing; I’m working hard and I can’t get paid leave, I can’t get affordable child care,” Bronx and Westchester County representative Jamaal Bowman said in a video at the time. “Instead we got money, taxpayer money, going to robot dogs?”

Now, the police department has decided to return Digidog to Boston Dynamics early — and it tried to do so quietly.

After city council members subpoenaed records related to the device, they found that a contract with Boston Dynamics worth about $94,000 was cut short and terminated on April 22, according to the Times.

According to the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism John Miller, the department had a change of mind when the device became a “target.”

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“People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil,” Miller told the newspaper. He defended the department’s use of Digidog and argued it had already deployed robots for nearly 50 years, including bomb squad units that feature robotic arms to defuse live explosives.

But the deployment of Digidog was seen as a needlessly expensive militarization of the police by its many critics.

“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,” Democratic Upper East Side representative and city councilor Ben Kallos told the NYT.

Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, put it most succinctly, saying that he was “glad the Digidog was put down.”

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READ MORE: N.Y.P.D. Robot Dog’s Run Is Cut Short After Fierce Backlash [The New York Times]

More on Digidog: NYPD Robodog Involved in Arrest of Man With Gun


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