The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) spent $150,045 in CARES Act money to purchase a Boston Dynamics' four-legged robo-dog called Spot to patrol a homeless quarantine encampment, according to Vice News.
HPD extensively used the robo-dog to conduct various tasks, such as temperature readings, disinfecting, and patrol the city's homeless camp.
In the last year, Honolulu is one of four police departments to adopt the headless, quadrupedal robot outfitted with high-tech sensors to sniff the world around it — Massachusetts State Police, New York City Police Department, and the Dutch National Police are the other three.
In January, HPD officials attempted to deflect bad press around the Spot by claiming the robot will save the department money as it would reduce labor and equipment expenses.
With the pandemic winding down, it's unclear if the robot is needed at all and maybe repurposed. The costs of the robot infuriated Honolulu residents, while others suggested the robot could continue to be used to surveil the homeless.
We've seen this story before and may know how it will play out, especially with what was recently observed in New York City.
Last fall, NYPD leased the four-legged robotic dog called "Digidog" from Boston Dynamics, which came with an optical sensor on top to patrol low-income neighborhoods.
Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caused such an uproar about the robo-dog's use. She quoted an NYPost article titled "Video shows NYPD's new robotic dog in action in the Bronx" on Twitter. She was not fond of the "robotic surveillance ground drones that are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools."
By late April, after more community uproar, the NYPD terminated its leasing contract with Boston Dynamics and had to put Digidog down.
Suppose NYPD's limited use of the robot serves as history. In that case, it's only a matter of time before community uproar in Honolulu forces officials to suspend deployment of the robot.