Cincinnati considers use of police robots to help thwart crime

The Cincinnati Police Department said it is always learning about the latest policing technology, and autonomous security robots are on that list.

Chief Teresa Theetge, other CPD staff and local media got an inside look Thursday at how these robots work. Knightscope, the company behind the robots, said they’re fully autonomous, meaning no one is behind a controller determining where the robots go.

“What the robot’s looking for is anomalies, so for example, people in places where they should not be or at times of day when they should not be there,” said Stacy Stephens, executive vice president for Knightscope.

He said the robots have 360-degree cameras and two-way audio capabilities. They live stream and record the video and audio back to the police department and can dispatch an officer when needed.

“If somebody is approaching the robot and you can see that they’re trying to do damage to it, you can immediately dispatch somebody there to then intervene,” Stephens said.

He also said the robots weigh about 400 pounds and are made out of a material that is purposefully hard to damage. Plus, the robot would be recording the person damaging it, giving police evidence.

Theetge said if these came to Cincinnati, they wouldn’t replace police officers.

“My position on any kind of technology is it has to be tried and proven before we will consider it for the Cincinnati Police Department,” she said.

Theetge also said there’s no timeline on when or if she would decide to sign a contract with Knightscope.

If the department did, Knightscope said it would be a subscription service, rather than the department buying the robots.

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