Robot cop dog taking homeless peoples’ temperature amid Covid in Hawaii deemed ‘dehumanizing’

A robot cop dog taking homeless people's temperature suspected of having Covid-19 has stirred controversy in Honolulu
A robot cop dog taking homeless people’s temperature suspected of having Covid-19 has stirred controversy in Honolulu (Picture: AP)

Police in Honolulu, Hawaii, have deployed a robotic dog to check homeless individuals’ temperature who are suspected of having the coronavirus. While cops say the robot, Spot, saves them money and health risks, critics have called it ‘dehumanizing’ to the homeless.

Honolulu police have been using Spot to scan homeless peoples’ body temperatures to determine whether they need to be tested for Covid-19 or be quarantined.

Spot has also been utilized to interview people who tested positive for the coronavirus so that officers do not risk getting infected.

Police logs showed that the four-legged robot was used at Keehi Lagoon Beach Park homeless encampment a few times in one month, the Daily Mail reported.

Spot costs the Honolulu Police Department $150,000 in federal pandemic relief funds. But Acting Lt Joseph O’Neal claims it saves them $117,000 to $242,760 in pay for an officer doing the checks and potentially catching Covid-19 and being out sick.

However, critics have claimed that the dog robot is ‘dehumanizing’ to the homeless.

‘Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,’ said Jongwook Kim, the legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, in July 2021, around the time Spot was introduced.

‘At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.’ 

O’Neal at the time defended Spot by saying, ‘We have not had a single person out there that said, “That’s scary, that’s worrisome.” We don’t just walk around and arbitrarily scan people.’ 

Besides that criticism, Spot has encountered some issues, including losing signal at times and not being able to be deployed. The robot also appeared to struggle with rain and wind.

Still, Honolulu police Officer Mike Lambert called it ‘the most innovative program in the nation’.

‘During the pandemic, no one has ever heard of another law enforcement agency trying to provide shelter and overnight services for the unsheltered,’ Lambert added.

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