To help in the fight against crime, the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) is turning to robots.
In its Tuesday meeting, the Fort Worth City Council approved the purchase of special weapons and tactics robots and accessories from Endeavor Robotics (formerly iRobot Defense Holdings) for the FWPD’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT). The council approved a cost up to $185,325.
The decision for the robot was based on data that shows suspects are becoming more heavily armed, better trained and better educated in the very law enforcement tactics used to apprehend them. In many special threat situations, SWAT needs to use cutting edge technology to go into harm’s way and take the place of an actual officer.
“They’ve already got a robot they’ve been using for some time, they’re wanting to diversify their fleet,” said FWPD Public Information Officer Christopher Britt. “Basically, it’s an upgrade.”
When considering threats from international terrorism, lone wolf terrorists and domestic mass casualty incidents, the use of robots has become standard practice in police work. This includes the current robot technology in use by Fort Worth SWAT, which has increased officer safety and has provided key intelligence during critical incidents.
The Dallas Police Department used a robot to take down a sniper during the July 2016 attacks on police officers.
“You can send in a robot instead of a police officer,” Britt said. “The benefits to the officers are pretty apparent, but it also benefits anyone inside the place officers need to get into.”
Britt said a robot can even remove the necessity for force. For example, through a robot, officers can assess a situation better before entering the area.
“This is a set of eyes that lets them see inside, slow things down,” Britt said.
Fort Worth SWAT is requesting two different sized robots, each with their own capabilities. One unit is a smaller robot that is lightweight, packable, and even throwable. The other is a much larger robot with multiple cameras, a strong extendable arm that can open doors and move objects, and that possesses a much longer battery life for extended operations.
These robots will be able to communicate with and support other robots when needed. Examples include providing extended communications range for remote control, lifting one robot and placing it on or over an object and working interchangeably off one remote control device or tablet computer.
Funding will come from the 2016 Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Grant. Because UASI grants are managed by the Emergency Management Division of the Fire Department, the budget is located there instead of the Police Department.
The robots are expected to be delivered within six months after ordering.