In an effort to save lives, the last chapter of this week’s mass murder in Dallas came at the hands of a remote-controlled robot in what may be the first such use in this country.
After killing five police officers during what had been a peaceful protest, the suspect was isolated inside a downtown Dallas parking garage. Not wanting to risk a frontal assault that could have led to more casualties, police sent in one of the Dallas Police Explosive Ordinance Unit‘s unmanned devices after an exchange of gunfire and negotiations failed.
“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” said Dallas Police Chief David Brown in a press conference. “Other options would have exposed our officers to great danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.”
Cheap, ($8,000) Multi-functional, Agile, Remote-Controlled Robot (MARCbot) devices were created for use originally for planetary exploration and then modified for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan for IED detection and disarmament as well as checking buildings and peering around corners. Use of expendable MARCbots saved lives with no less than 1,634 robots lost in action in 2007 alone.
Use by law enforcement is newer and much more small scale but, as shown in Dallas, can be effective.
Tech writer Peter W. Singer says this is the first use of a robot this way in policing although he says Marcbots have been used by troops in Iraq for similar missions.
Constitutional advocate and attorney Kris Anne Hall had harsh words for the change in tactics by DPD, which she argues threaten due process.
“Police sent a robot with an explosive to kill a suspect. Life just got really surreal. We may have just entered the era of automated policing,” she noted. “I guarantee that you will see articles and hear politicians and pundits promoting this very thing. What’s next? Drones patrolling our streets because our officers now fear the people and the people have become the combatants?”