K9 Police Robots - Strolling Drones, RoboDogs, or Lethal Weapons?

Accepted paper at WeRobot2022 conference

61 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2022

See all articles by Carolin Kemper

Carolin Kemper

German Research Institute for Public Administration

Michael Kolain

German Research Institute for Public Administration (FÖV Speyer)

Date Written: August 8, 2022


The advent of a robotized police force has come: Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” patrols cities like Honolulu, investigates drug labs in the Netherlands, explores a burned building in danger of collapsing in Germany, and has already assisted the police in responding to a home invasion in New York City. Quadruped robots might soon be on sentry duty at US borders: For this pur-pose, the Department of Homeland Security procured Ghost Robotics’ Vision 60 – a model that can be equipped with different payloads, including a weapons system. Canine police robots may patrol public spaces, explore dangerous environments, and might even use force if they are equipped with weapons like guns or pepper spray.

This new gadget is not unlike previous tools deployed by the police, especially surveillance equipment or mechanized help by other machines. Even though they slightly resemble the good, old-fashioned police dog, their functionalities and affordances are structurally different from K9 units: Wherever canine robots roam, they capture data on their environment, and they en-counter citizens, e. g. by replaying orders or by establishing a two-way audio link; they can be controlled fully through remote-control over a long distance – or they automate their patrol by following a preconfigured route. And the law has still to find a way to suitably address and contain these risks associated to – potentially armed – canine police robots.

As a starting point, we analyze the use of canine robots by the police for surveillance, with special regard to existing data protection regulation for law enforcement in the European Un-ion. Additionally, we identify overarching regulatory challenges that their deployment poses.

With what we call “citizen-robot-state interaction”, we combine the findings of human-robot interaction with the legal and ethical requirements for a legitimate use of robots by state au-thorities, especially the police. We argue that the requirements of legitimate exercise of state authority hinge on how police use a robot to mediate their interaction with citizens. Law en-forcement agencies should not simply procure existing robot models used as military or indus-trial equipment. Before canine police robots rightfully roam our public and private spaces, police departments and lawmakers should rather carefully and comprehensively assess which purpose fits their affordances, which citizens’ rights they impinge on, and whether full accountability and liability is guaranteed.

In our analysis, we focus on the existing canine robot models “Spot” and “Vision 60” to sketch out potential deployment scenarios and analyze those as “citizen-robot-state interactions”. Our paper ultimately aims to lay a normative groundwork for future debates on the legitimate use (canine) robots as a tool of modern policing. We conclude that, currently, canine robots are only suitable for particularly dangerous missions to keep police officers out of harms way.

Keywords: Robotics, Police robots, Law Enforcement Directive, citizen-machine-state-interaction, canine robots, K9, law, technology, WeRobot

JEL Classification: K23, K10, O38

Suggested Citation

Kemper, Carolin and Kolain, Michael, K9 Police Robots - Strolling Drones, RoboDogs, or Lethal Weapons? (August 8, 2022). Accepted paper at WeRobot2022 conference, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4201692 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4201692

Carolin Kemper (Contact Author)

German Research Institute for Public Administration

Speyer, DE

Michael Kolain

German Research Institute for Public Administration (FÖV Speyer) ( email )

Freiherr-vom-Stein-Str. 2

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.foev-speyer.de/forschung/digitalisierung-1

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