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US Defense Department donating 'hundreds' of surplus military robots to police

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The US Defense Department has said it will be donating military robots, potentially those designed for bomb disposal and surveillance, to US police departments as part of its surplus program.


US domestic law enforcement is definitely enamored of military technology, whether it's all-seeing cameras or gun detection systems. Now, the Department of Defense will be donating "hundreds" of surplus robots to police departments as early as this summer. Last week, Dan Arnold of the Defense Logistics Agency announced that along with surplus rifles and vehicles, military 'bots will be made available through the 1033 Program, which provides surplus goods to law enforcement. Other agencies, like fire departments, may also be able to get the robots though different programs.

While it's clear that drones aren't going to be given away to police, a Defense Department spokeswoman told Wired that the agency still wasn't sure what would be included: "The item manager for these robots... will determine which models can be declared excess." It's likely this will include bomb disposal robots or some surveillance tools. Though we wouldn't expect to see the experimental AlphaDog shown above patrolling the streets, the police force will still have to deal with adapting military tools to a civilian population. Besides the privacy issues that can arise from using wartime technology at home, police must learn how to effectively operate the technology — often with less manpower than the military can provide. Since even groups like the Air Force can't always keep up with the new machines, that may prove a difficult task indeed.