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Police robots

Ohio man charged with shooting police robot that entered his bedroom

Friday, March 08, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: police robots, assault, Ohio

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(NaturalNews) It's not a zombie apocalypse but it could be the next best - or worst - thing, depending on your point of view, but one thing is for certain: The robots are coming, and with them new laws that will undoubtedly be utilized to protect them.

According to the Chillicothe Gazette, a Gannett-owned Ohio newspaper, a 62-year-old man, Michael Blevins, who was heavily inebriated was recently arrested for shooting (but not killing) a police robot following a six-hour stand-off.

The report said that officers in the town of Waverly initially responded to a complaint that shots had been fired inside a bedroom at a home, and that the homeowner had a number of guns and was threatening neighbors.

Police knocked on the front door of the home, called on the telephone and even brought in a trained negotiator in an effort to make contact with Blevins, but he refused to speak to anyone for hours. At that, officers decided to contact the Pike County Sheriff's Department as well as the state Highway Patrol's Strategic Response Team for help. They got a pair of search robots instead.

Attack of the drones?

The first robot to enter the Blevins' home was camera-equipped. Its mission was to locate the man and his guns. A second, larger robot was then sent inside, but when Blevins spotted that machine, he opened fire on it with a small caliber pistol, damaging it.

After all that, police finally entered his home and used a simple stun gun to subdue and arrest him.

Later, after obtaining a search warrant, cops found several firearms in Blevins', including a pair of AK-47-style, semi-automatic rifles and a 75-round ammunition magazine, an item that is illegal to own in Ohio.

Following an evaluation by medical doctors and mental health professionals, Blevins was charged with two felony counts of unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance and vandalism of government property, among other charges, the local paper reported.

The use of robots by the military has grown exponentially over the past decade. They are utilized as bomb-sniffing devices and for other counter-IED missions in Afghanistan and were used is similar capacities in Iraq before U.S. troops pulled out.

And just as the military has replaced a lot of missions that can be harmful to soldiers with robots, civilian authorities are doing the same for certain dangerous situations, to protect officers. Other technologies being used by police are alarming, however: They include automated license plate readers; taser cameras; face ID scanners; facial recognition software; and drones. Robots are only the latest high-tech device employed by police.

In fact, reports David J. Hill at SingularityHub.com, another Ohio police department last fall was showing off a recently acquired $11,000 AVATAR surveillance robot from a firm called RoboteX; its mission is assisting the department's SWAT team.

Writes Hill:

Robots like these are increasingly being used in standoffs in which armed people are not cooperating with police. For example, a related event occurred last year in Utah when two cousins who were roommates got into an argument and shots were fired. When SWAT arrived, one cousin surrendered but the other refused to come out. He did, however, surrender his shotgun when the police sent a robot in.

Increased technology impinges on the Constitution

Departments are increasingly looking to high-tech, high-end systems that make it easier to catch lawbreakers while protecting the lives of officers, but as technology often does, with the advances come additional new concerns about constitutional issues such as privacy and other individual rights, Hill notes. "After all, the consequence of the intoxicated Ohio man's actions is to be charged with damage to police equipment rather than, at the least, attempted murder charges if he had fired on police."

But would he have fired on police? These implications of increased robot use are only now coming into focus. Notes Hill:

Incidents between citizens and police robots will be on the rise as more bots are brought into service. Hopefully, we can remember that a potentially deadly armed standoff resulted in no one being hurt, thanks to technology and those who use it responsibly.

The key word, of course, is responsibly.





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