Police use robot dogs to test unhoused people for Covid

Vice reports that the Honolulu Police Department spent $150,000 on a Robot Dog from Boston Dynamics, plus $11 on a thermometer, to go around to encampments of unhoused people and take their temperatures to see if they might have COVID-19. I can't believe I just had to type that sentence out.

Honolulu's police department first drew national media attention when Civil Beat reported it had spent $150,045 in federal funds earmarked for pandemic relief on Spot. At a presentation to city council last year, Honolulu PD explained that Spot would be used to patrol the Keehi Lagoon Beach Park homeless encampment in the city and, more specifically, would be used to take the temperatures of unhoused people living in encampments as an initial COVID-19 screening.This means that people living in the encampment would have regular initial screenings not with a human but with a dog-shaped robot under the guise of keeping cops safe from homeless people who potentially had COVID-19.

What could possibly go wrong?

During a city council meeting, Honolulu Police Officer Mike Lambert reportedly claimed that the robot dogs would save the department between $117,000 and $242,760 in labor costs over just the first three months of using it. At least, as long as it doesn't rain too hard; the robot only has an Ingress protection rating of 54, which means you could probably kill it with a deluge of water.

Police Outsourcing Human Interaction With Homeless People to Boston Dynamics' Robot Dog [Matthew Gault / Vice]

Image: JJxFile / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)