They spent $150,000 on a robot for an officer to call it a toy.
Honolulu Police Department spent a hefty amount on Spot, the robot dog from the $40 million Care Act Cash Fund, destined for necessary purchases. HPD bought the robot to act as a tool to respond to the pandemic while most people are not convinced, saying the purchase wasn’t necessary.
Spot is built by Boston Dynamics and can walk on almost all terrains. It is being used by forces in different parts of the world, thanks to its wide-scale use, especially for keeping an eye. The modern dog-shaped robot was seen dancing in a recent video that went viral on the internet, showing the dog can do more than what we think of it.
HPD bought the modern robot dog for it to serve as a tool to aid in pandemic response. It could effectively take temperatures through thermal imaging, replacing the role of a frontline worker, the ones who were most vulnerable to contract the virus. Apart from taking temperatures, Spot was seen reminding people of preventive measures necessary to stay safe amidst the pandemic in another part of the world.
Criticism on the HPD purchase
People suffering from the pandemic and those who lost their jobs recently criticized the purchase, terming it “unnecessary.”
“It sounds absolutely ridiculous,” said Katrina Langford, a Haleiwa mother of two who has struggled to get rental assistance after she and her husband lost their jobs.
“I could think of a lot of better things to do with that money. It seems like people are taking temperatures everywhere, and they don’t need robots to do it.”
The police department had requests to be interviewed on the matter, which they denied. Instead, they responded to the criticism with an email stating that it does more than just taking temperatures. They defended the purchase by stating some of its benefits and utilities to the department and the public.
“Spot will help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through touchless field screening and interaction with homeless individuals in self-quarantine,” he said.
“Oftentimes, POST participants will request medical attention when exhibiting possible symptoms of COVID-19. To reduce possible exposure, the Spot robot will provide telemedicine to those individuals and can deliver medical supplies and food.”
According to McCarthy, Spot can also patrol an area and conduct continual thermal imaging to detect people’s temperature changes. “Currently, much of this work is done by officers, some of whom are on overtime pay. In the long run, the Spot robot will save money while keeping officers safe,” he said. “Beyond the pandemic, we plan to use the Spot robot in other HPD operations.”
The Care Act Cash fund was destined for necessary expenditures, and HPD has apparently spent the most of it on buying the tools for their own convenience, rather than spending it on places where the fund could have benefitted the public more. This has left the police department with criticism on their made choices from outside and within. An officer stated, “Toys, toys, toys,” said one Honolulu officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation. “Everything we could buy, we would buy.”