Santa Ana police deploying new robot for SWAT situations

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Santa Ana Police Department unveiled its latest tool, a reconnaissance robot.

The SWAT team began training with the device.

"Technology to implement in hostage rescue, searching, barricaded suspects, structures, anything that can give us the advantage," said Sgt. Oscar Lizardi.

The Vantage robot is made by Transcend Tactical.

The SWAT team used it during a simulated hostage situation. The inventors of the stair-climbing robot intended for it to serve as a tool to assess dangerous situations.

"One of the most difficult and challenging things for any officer, much less SWAT team, is to send officers to a dangerous situation," said Lizardi.

The new robot has infrared sensors and allows officers to speak to victims and suspects using a camera and two-way microphone.

In the training scenario, negotiators talked the mock suspect into surrendering while the team waited to move in.

Police say the robot will be used on a case-by-case basis with officer safety in mind.

"These robots are creating safety through distance," said Phil Walker, the CEO of Transcend Tactical. "We are trying to stop violence between officers and suspects."

If things escalate, Vantage can also deploy tear gas if needed.

"Speak with that suspect, and warn them that tear gas is getting deployed, versus just throwing tear gas in," said Walker. "You're able to get a response from someone."

Vantage costs about $19,000 and is being used by about 45 agencies around the country.
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