The Dallas Police Department said in an official statement that the robot used to kill a suspected gunman last Thursday was a Remotec F5 carrying a C4 explosive device and detonation cord. The F5 might be an earlier version of the Remotec Andros F6B, pictured above, a remotely controlled robot commonly used by bomb squads and other first responders in the United States.
The Dallas police robo-bomb, along with the events that precipitated it, should push us to do some soul-searching about the role of law enforcement in society. As one police chief who has been thinking about the relationship between law enforcement and its communities, Lee Sjolander, reminded peace officers that “it’s not ‘us-versus-them’.”
In the end, the decision by Dallas police to use a robot-bomb was either pre-planned, or it wasn’t. Either they had considered the tactic previously and had some plan in place, or it was an improvised tactic. Either way, the policy is unclear and unpublished, which means we don’t know how thoughtful it is. We don’t know the issues they considered and how they arrived at the decision.
As with other game-changing technologies, police robotics-especially as weapons-could change the character of law enforcement in society. It surely would save the lives of police officers, but there are other issues at stake, too. This needs to be a broader conversation with the democratic public that it affects and that gives police officers their authority in the first place.