A look at the new high tech policing tools LAPD is using on the field, including robots and BolaWrap

Rob Hayes Image
Thursday, August 17, 2023
LAPD using more high tech policing tools, robots and BolaWrap
The department's new robot dog was successfully used during a standoff in Koreatown. Plus, LAPD is also arming its officers with BolaWrap, a handheld device firing a lasso-like cord designed to wrap around a person's legs.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When an armed man hunkered down in a Koreatown strip mall last week, the Los Angeles Police Department leaned on a new tool to decrease the danger to its officers: a robot dog.

Officially known as a Quadruped Unmanned Ground Vehicle, the canine-looking robot was able to approach the wounded suspect, remove two weapons that were near him, and allow officers to safely take the man into custody.

LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi this week told the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners that one of the department's older, wheeled robots was unable to retrieve the weapons, but the Q.U.G.V. was.

"Because of the four limbs, if you will, and the nimbleness and flexibility of this tool, this tool was able to get to the position, recover one firearm, come back, go back and recover the second firearm, and then officers were able to safely approach this individual," Choi said. "I believe this was the first deployment of this tool and it was successful and came to a positive resolution."

LAPD added the $280,000 robot dog to its SWAT team earlier this year, despite heated opposition from civil rights groups fearful that it will be used disproportionately in Black and brown communities.

"The robot dog is very much a battlefront technology, which can be armed as well," said Hamid Khan, an organizer for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. "The violence of these kind of tools continues and the uselessness is so obvious as well."

LAPD says the robot will never be armed and will be used in hostage or standoff situations as a way to keep officers from having to enter dangerous situations.

The police department also asked the police commissioners to approve a request to add another year to its BolaWrap 150 Pilot Program, another high tech policing tool.

The BolaWrap fires a high-velocity Kevlar cord that wraps itself around a suspect's arms or legs, restraining him so officers can safely take him into custody.

LAPD Chief Moore, in a letter to the commissioners, said over a one-year trial period officers used BolaWraps in 14 separate confrontations, including seven in the Hollywood Area and seven in the Central Area.

The department does not consider BolaWrap to be a reportable use of force unless the individual on whom it is deployed sustains an injury or complains of one.

Moore says the 25 officers permanently assigned to Transit Services Division will be trained how to use the device and carry them on duty.

However, Metro sent out a statement on Wednesday saying it has not been approved its use on the Metro system.

"Metro officials met with LAPD this afternoon to discuss the reports [Wednesday] about the BolaWrap. While the LAPD did get approval to continue its pilot of this device, it is not correct that Metro has approved its use on the Metro system. The LAPD will be scheduling a demonstration of the device for Metro as an alternative to use of force in the system and will share its proposed plans to pilot its use on the Metro system, for Metro's consideration."