‘Bomb Robot’ Takes Down Dallas Gunman, but Raises Enforcement Questions

Jul 10, 2016

By Henry Fountain and Michael S. Schmidt

The Dallas police ended a standoff with the gunman suspected of killing five officers with a tactic that by all accounts appears to be unprecedented: It blew him up using a robot.

In doing so, it sought to protect police who had negotiated with the man for several hours and had exchanged gunfire with him. But the decision ignited a debate about the increasing militarization of police and the remote-controlled use of force, and raised the specter of a new era of policing.

The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, said officers had used one of the department’s “bomb robots,” attaching an explosive device to its arm that was detonated early Friday when the robot was near the gunman. “Other options would have exposed the officers to grave danger,” he said.


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19 comments on “‘Bomb Robot’ Takes Down Dallas Gunman, but Raises Enforcement Questions

  • “Other options would have exposed the officers to grave danger”

    Sounds like the defense they will use for the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.
    Since when did civilian police forces have this capability and what are the protocols for use?



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  • The Dallas police ended a standoff with the gunman suspected of killing five officers with a tactic that by all accounts appears to be unprecedented: It blew him up using a robot.

    With extreme terrorism and America’s gun culture,, there clearly needs to be some policy and codes of conduct for usage of such measures in extreme conditions.

    It is however a case of shutting the stable door after the horses have bolted, so a greatly reduced access to guns and explosives, could scale down these problems at source.

    A reduction in attitudes of selfishness, use of force, and tribalism, by improving education and improving the justice system, is also a more long term partial solution.



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  • Doesn’t this now mean hostages, as a human shield, will be more important to the gunmen? Or, a bigger bomb to bring down the building strapped to their body?

    The element of surprise is now gone.



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  • In a time when military style weapons are used by the suspect, the police have to resort to substantial force,,,,,in some situations.
    My concern is also the spread of remote controlled robots to kill the suspect. This implies the guilty verdict has already been established. However, the suspect had already killed several officers and in this case the need was clear.
    I think some very clear guidelines need to be set up when these devices are used to terminate a suspect.



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  • alf1200 #5
    Jul 11, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    In a time when military style weapons are used by the suspect, the police have to resort to substantial force,,,,,in some situations.
    My concern is also the spread of remote controlled robots to kill the suspect.

    I suppose, that robots could use tasers or stun grenades, but if the suspect is a suicide bomber or is threatening hostages or to detonate bombs, a quick stop may be necessary.

    These options should be looked at and formulated into policy and law.



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  • 5 officers down seems a good time to throw one in
    Sentence and execution are not police functions.

    ....the suspect had already killed several officers...

    Contradiction. However, I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of your post.



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  • Seems to me that the use of lethal force whether a remote controlled bomb or a sniper is only justified when there is an immediate and urgent need to bring the suspect down to prevent further deaths. It’s not clear from the report that this was the case. In the UK, it’s unlikely that this action would be considered reasonable and justified unless the suspect was actually firing. After a mere breakdown in negotiations, UK police would normally play a waiting game and see if the suspect might start talking again.



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  • @ Alan4discussion: “These options should be looked at and formulated into policy and law.” The police just ignore policy and law whenever they feel like it. That’s why all this happened in the first place.



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  • David Kettle #9
    Jul 11, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    @ Alan4discussion: “These options should be looked at and formulated into policy and law.”

    The police just ignore policy and law whenever they feel like it. That’s why all this happened in the first place.

    Indeed so!
    It is one of the failures of the American system that police chiefs and other officials, are political appointees with close associations between themselves and the incoming mayors or governors who appoint them.

    This leads to a lack of independent oversight, accountability, and continuity in following rules or laws!
    The whole local administration can become a clique or a little political empire.



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  • This is a very very dangerous precedent that has been set with the use of a robot equipped with a bomb. This claim that to do otherwise would place officers in “grave danger” is such a disingenuous claim as the job duty of an officer is to place themselves in danger.

    The use of weapons of warfare by US law enforcement is only going to make an already bad situation between the US citizens and the already thug-like and criminal US police. USA law enforcement at this point in time are the enemy of the people and now, with this dangerous precedent being set, the trip down the rabbit hole is going to only get worse.



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  • @Alan4Discussion

    I suppose, that robots could use tasers or stun grenades, but if the suspect is a suicide bomber or is threatening hostages or to detonate bombs, a quick stop may be necessary.

    My thoughts exactly on this, seems a wasted opportunity, Such robots could be used to for example release a tear gas canister, or some other non-lethal weapon without killing the guy. Drones could be used to deescalate violence instead here a decision was made to escalate, will we now be surprised if people like this start using IED’s or cheap drones to drop improvised explosives on police officers?

    @ Justin

    When deadly force is authorized, it makes no difference what vehicle is used to deliver such force.

    Agreed, but would have been nicer especially considering the reason for the rally had they been able to keep the guy alive – this is 20/20 hindsight but would we be surprised or as concerned if a sniper had taken him out? A key ethical point that most miss in this is this robot is basically an RC vehicle, it wasn’t the terminator programmed to kill. There was someone using an ipad or VR headset to drive this to the suspect and a person pulled the trigger so to speak. Where Drones become more ethically problematic IMO is when they begin to be more autonomous. Any AI in this robot would likely have been limited to self stabilizing over rough terrain and so forth. I suppose there is a case to be made that having a less risky method of resolving a situation might make it easier to make the decision to kill. However I think you could argue that having no immediate risk to officers delivering the robot to his proximity could be used as a negotiating tactic “This robot is carrying a round of high explosive if you fire or try to move towards it we will detonate it, so let’s talk”

    @Anders

    This claim that to do otherwise would place officers in “grave danger” is such a disingenuous claim as the job duty of an officer is to place themselves in danger.

    Yes but no-one wants to die. If there is some nutter trying to kill them then they do and IMO have the right to kill in order to avoid being killed, I read a quote about soldiers not so much being prepared to die for their countries as trying to get others to die for theirs. By I share your concerns about the ramping up of violence by the US police.



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  • 17
    Pinball1970 says:

    @somanystars
    Sentence and execution are not police functions.

    Their job is to look after the public as well as themselves and it was quite clear this guy wanted to kill police officers.

    No one in their right mind would argue the police were unjustified using lethal force.

    I think this story does not do very much to forward the other discussions that going on right regarding police officers shooting unarmed black men.

    Which police forces if any are institutionally racist in the states and why? All of them?

    Gun crime and violent crime has consistently fallen in many cities in the states over the last 20 years according to some of the sources I looked at but the media seem intent on painting a different picture.

    An armed general public from our perspective in the UK seems to be the biggest problem in the states.

    You would be crazy to send in your police force into that sort of community unarmed, no one would do it.



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  • 18
    bonnie2 says:

    Never ending “arms race” – heck, even two guys at Ark Park resorted to antler bashing (protester vs. supporter).

    In the interim, overwrought Dallas police Chief appeals for folks to make a change via > “we’re hiring”.



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  • I’m very likely not going to get this NRA quote (assuming it is one) down word-perfect, but my memory has it as “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Um … yes. Saber-tooth felines died out (why that?) approximately 10,000 years ago. But with the obvious difference in the damage (carnage) which can be effected if someone (mostly some guy) has as his weapon a toothpick (or even a baseball bat) or a thing which is a 100% replica of the M-16 automatic rifle (or oddly enough that Commie thing called a Kalashnikov), why does the US allow the 323 million of its citizens (out of about 324 million estimated in 2016) who should not be trusted with even a toothpick to get a hold of such a weapon of mass destruction (if of limited range)???

    Oops. Wikipedia puts it as 72,41 White. Divide by two for “white” males, makes it about 36% dangerous people. Wild guess, at most half of them are dangerous nutters, so about 18%. Would make “only” just over 50 million homicidal crackpots in the US (vaguely comparable to Boko Haram or IS. Mentally challenged approximately on the same scale). Eh? Only Germany, France, Great Britain (sigh) and Italy have a higher total population than that. Then again, some of the remaining 23 or so percent (OK, mostly the obvious 13.5 percent) are not Mahatma Gandhi fans, either.

    If people kill people, keep the dangerous stuff out of the hands of the nutters!!! The NRA is one of the few organizations (that I know vaguely enough about) that makes me think that the death penalty is not in all cases a “cruel and unusual punishment”.



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