Oregon City Council on Monday will consider buying a robot to help police de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.
“I know robots will raise some eyebrows, but this will be a tactical robot that will be used by the Oregon Police SRT [Special Response Team],” Police Chief Mike Navarre said at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday. “There is not another robot like this in northwest Ohio. The Northwest Ohio Bomb Squad has a robot that is used mainly for bomb detection. This will be a robot that is smaller, lighter weight, sleeker, faster and more agile.”
The robot would be used to conduct high risks activities, such as respond to barricaded subjects or communicate in a police standoff with an armed hostage taker, according to Navarre.
“You hear about this all the time in other cities. Hopefully, we’ll never have to use them here. But it will be a good thing to have that tool available,” said Navarre.
Oregon partners with Sylvania, Sylvania Township and Maumee in SRT training and tactical operations, he added.
“If we have something where there is an immediate need and they have trained members available, they will send them to us and vice versa. They do not have this robot,” said Navarre.
Part of a $180,000 Buffer Zone Protection Grant (BZPG) that the city received in 2010 will pay for the robot, he said. The grant is administered through the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The police department received about $120,000 out of the $180,000 grant, while the fire department got the balance of $60,000.
“We came to council earlier in the year and used a portion of the money for in-car police cameras,” said Navarre. “I was told in 2008 when this money was first made available that the rules were quite lax. That’s not the case in 2010. The rules are very restrictive. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has to approve purchases in advance.”
Navarre recommended that council approve the purchase of the robot and other equipment from Microtech, of Toledo, for $66,455. The robot and accessories will cost $18,475, while other equipment, including night vision goggles and accessories, and four thermal imagers (binoculars) will cost $47,980.
“It’s stuff you see on TV and read about in books. But the feds are generous enough to give us the money and have given us guidelines on how to spend it. If we don’t spend it, we have to give it back. We don’t want to give it back. There is no local match required,” said Navarre. “These items will be used to help officers perform their jobs more efficiently and safely. Council will consider the request at its regular council meeting on Monday.
Also on Monday, council will consider approving a $15,000 donation from the Toledo Refining Company to buy a K9 unit for the police department.
Navarre and the city’s Safety Committee recommended that council approve the donation.
“I think there’s a strong consensus on city council and on the committee to forward this to the regular council meeting next week,” said Councilman Mike Sheehy, chairman of the Safety Committee.
“The money the Toledo Refining Company is willing to give to us with no strings attached will be used for the acquisition of the dog and will pay for the initial training,” said Navarre.
“I also want to remind council that a comment the chief made at the [Safety Committee] meeting is that this will have to be cost effective, it’s not going to be a slush fund,” said Sheehy. “We have to make this work within budgetary restraints. It’s a good program, but it’s also a cost effective program.”
Navarre said at a previous council meeting that a dog on the force would offer the following benefits to the department and the community:
• Enhance preventative patrol;
• Perform safety checks and ensure unauthorized persons are not in restricted areas;
• Track fleeing suspect (s) to support officers in apprehensions;
• Search for narcotics and other unlawful drugs;
• Maintain order and deter unruly behavior;
• Public relations;
• Provide for a higher level of officer safety;
• Building searches;
• A fear of dogs by the criminal element reduces resistance during apprehension;
• An increase in cash and property seizures that normally accompany drug related arrests.