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New DPD SWAT robot will save lives, officials say

The Dayton police SWAT team recently purchased a robot that officials say will increase officers’ safety.

Dayton city commissioners approved the purchase of the new robot at a November meeting. The Avatar III tactical robot designed by California-based Robotex Inc. costs nearly $60,000 and is scheduled to be delivered later this month. A third-generation machine, the robot features a specially-outfitted arm capable of opening doors and moving objects. A sophisticated track system allows it to climb stairs and roll over obstacles. It’ll also be equipped with a two-way communication system, allowing officers to speak to suspects holed up inside a building at a safe distance, said Lt. Joe Weisman, commander of the Dayton SWAT team.

“Before the robot, maybe we’d send in a K-9 and obviously a K-9 cannot open doors,” Weisman said. “This is just another progression in technology that’s making it easier and safer for everyone.”

In the past, the SWAT team had to use Dayton police’s bomb squad robot if they didn’t want to use an officer or K-9 during standoff situations. This robot will be used exclusively by the SWAT team, and could be deployed anywhere in the Miami Valley where the SWAT team is requested, Weisman said.

While the robot is similar to a remote-control car and about as easy to use, Robotex President Eric Ivers said it’s a heavy-duty, robust machine that can endure all sorts of tactical uses. Suspects have shot at the robots in the past— another reason he said the machines are safer and far superior to sending an officer in to negotiate or apprehend a suspect.

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“You can throw it through a window, you can drive it upstairs, find the bad guy in the dark and have a conversation with him without ever going inside the building,” Ivers said.

Funding for the robot was already approved as part of Dayton police’s 2014 budget. Weisman said the money could come out of the general fund, or the department could use money collected through assets seized by officers. The team will begin using the robot as soon as it is delivered.

“By the time we get it outfitted, it is a lot of money, but saving one life, which I am sure this thing will do, will make it safer over the years and that’s a small price to pay,” he said.

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