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The Cops

Eric Adams Sure Loves His Robot Cop Toys

Luckily, these robots are weak where we are strong.

4:32 PM EDT on April 11, 2023

Mayor Eric Adams checks out one of Boston Dynamics's "Digidogs," purchased by the NYPD.
(Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office)

Whether he's testing out new recipes for dead rat soup or getting shot with a Spider-Man gun, Eric Adams loves gadgets. And now that Adams is mayor, he can really indulge: On Tuesday morning, Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell announced that the NYPD has spent at least $750,000 in forfeiture money on three robots and a souped-up Nerf Gun that are going to totally revolutionize the City's crime-fighting capabilities.

"If we were not willing to move forward and use technology on how to properly keep cities safe, then you will not keep up with those who are doing harmful things to hurt New Yorkers," the mayor said in a press conference. It's a comment that implies there's some kind of new, crime-doing technology passing through the city's criminal underworld right now—A knife that has lasers? Teleportation but evil?—and elides the predictable reality: These robots are a pricey publicity stunt that won't tip the scales on "safety" in the city one way or the other.

The new acquisitions include two Boston Dynamics "Digidogs," like the one the NYPD had to return in 2021 after major backlash from politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the large swath of New Yorkers who don't want to get stalked by a robot police dog. The NYPD says the Digidogs will be deployed in "'high-risk' investigations and situations involving hostages or hazard spills," and totally one hundred percent not used for surveillance.

The other robot, a Knightscope K5, is part of a pilot program and is reportedly set to patrol Times Square and the nearby Times Square subway station from midnight until 8 a.m., starting this summer. 

The NYPD is also piloting something called the "StarChase system," which involves the cops sticking a tracking tag or shooting one out of a gun onto a vehicle in order to follow it. In action, it looks like a recruitment tool for the worst 13-year-old you know:

Luckily, these robots are weak where we are strong. Not that we're suggesting anything—merely informing. There's a lot of interesting information about the Boston Dynamics robo-K9s available in this thread, for instance, including the location of a couple of shutdown mechanisms on each bot (a button that cuts the motor on the robot's metal ass and a handle on its mecha-belly that pops the battery out).

As for the egg-shaped K5s…those guys are verifiably pushable. I mean, look at them. Or read this story about a San Francisco man who kicked one over when he was drunk. And then there's the one that threw itself down the stairs and into a harbor in D.C. in 2017.

It's clear that if these things get deployed, they're going to have one of two fates: being a fixture in tourist photos alongside the world's grimiest Elmos and Spongebobs or serving as the city's most expensive punching bags. We're excited to watch as the situation unfolds.

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