Honolulu homeless robot temperature tests

January 2022
Updated: February 2022

Honolulu's police department has been using a robotic dog to take the temperatures of homeless people, according to VICE.

Using a public records request, VICE discovered that the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) deploys a robot dog on regular 'temperature' duty of unhoused people living in encampments.

Critics described the practice as 'insulting', 'inhuman' and 'dystopian'. By contrast, Honolulu PD officer Mike Lambert described it as 'the most innovative program in the nation' during a city council meeting.

The HPD spent USD 150,045 in federal funds earmarked for COVID-19 pandemic relief to acquire the Boston Dynamics Spot robot, according according to city spending data first uncovered by Honolulu Civil Beat.

HPD Deputy Director described the robot as 'more than a ‘thermometer' in an email interview with Civil Beat. In the same report, another officer described the purchase as 'Toys, toys, toys'.

This is not the first time controversy has dogged Spot. The NYPD was hauled over the coals for using it during a hostage operation in New York.

Operator: Honolulu Police Department
Developer: Hyundai Motor Group/Boston Dynamics

Country: USA

Sector: Govt - police

Purpose: Strengthen law enforcement; Detect body temperature

Technology: Robotics

Issue: Appropriateness/need; Effectiveness/value
Opacity:
Governance