Robot Cops Near You

For an updated analysis of 1033 data, click here.

A Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros robot in Dallas on Saturday. Credit: Stewart F. House / Getty Images

A Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros robot in Dallas on Saturday. Credit: Stewart F. House / Getty Images

By Dan Gettinger

After an exchange of gunfire on Saturday morning, in Dallas, Texas, an explosive ordnance disposal robot rolled up to a van parked outside of a fast food restaurant. James Boulware, the van’s occupant, is suspected of being involved in a midnight shootout at the headquarters of the Dallas Police Department hours earlier. According to a statement by Police Chief David Brown, the robot first confirmed that the suspect had been killed in the firefight before proceeding to test the van for possible explosives. These robots are a growing presence in police departments across the country, due largely to a Department of Defense program that transfers excess military equipment to American police. Some 201 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have at least one EOD robot thanks to the military’s 1033 Program.

The 1033 Program became the subject of national attention and debate last summer during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. The police response to the protests highlighted the proliferation of military equipment among local police departments. According to data provided by the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency, the 1033 Program has also facilitated the spread of unmanned ground vehicles to numerous police departments large and small. While a majority of the UGVs are described simply as “Robot, Explosive Ordnance Disposal,” there were multiple iRobot Packbot 510s and MarcBots listed among the equipment transfers. We went through the available data to find the bots.

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