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As California police eye advanced robots, watchdogs fear a slippery slope

Good morning and welcome to Essential California Newsletter. Is Wednesday March 8.

The age of robots is upon us. are already building our cars, flipping our burgers, cleaning our floors, patrolling our parking lots and delivering our junk food. And for law enforcement agencies in California and beyond, robots are joining the force.

Robots have done for some funny news and they are ripe for satireBut police vigilantes and community advocates are raising concerns about how police could abuse the technology.

Those concerns were on display Tuesday in Los Angeles as city leaders weighed whether to accept a donation of the so-called robot dog. During a public comment period, dozens of people spoke out against the LAPD plan.

The robot, nicknamed Spot, is built by Boston Dynamics and would come as a gift from the Los Angeles Police Foundation (about $280,000).

Spot’s ability to open doors, climb stairs and adapt to difficult terrain represents a significant advance over robots currently used by the Los Angeles Police Department. Per department policy, the robot-dog would be used only for incidents involving the LAPD SWAT team, such as cases involving active shooters or explosive devices.

But as my colleague Libor Jany reports, police critics are skeptical of the device and how the department will use it over time. He writes:

As with other police technologies, they are concerned about its potential for misuse to harm and spy on Black and Latino communities.

There is also concern that robots will be allowed to use force, both lethal and non-lethal, on humans. Similar enforcement efforts in other California cities have been met with swift community backlash.

San Francisco City Leaders initially approved a plan that would allow the police department to deploy lethally armed robots but backed down that decision amid protests.

Last year, Oakland police talked about putting shotguns on robots but then he said they were no longer exploring the idea.

LAPD officials told City Council members Tuesday that the robot would not be equipped with weapon systems or facial recognition software.

But many police critics and social justice advocates don’t trust those guarantees, warning of a slippery slope that could lead to robots spying on Angelenos, particularly black and brown residents.

“There’s a long history of mission advancement with the LAPD that we’ve seen, and everything we’ve called in has suddenly morphed into a much broader expansion of their deployment,” said Hamid Khan, a member of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. libor

After more than an hour of public comment, City Council members decided to postpone the vote. A decision will not be made for at least 60 days. While the robot dog donation was approved by the council’s Public Safety Committee, some Los Angeles leaders have spoken out against it.

“We cannot allow this dystopian machine in Los Angeles,” Councilman Hugo Soto-Martínez tweeted earlier this year before the committee vote, observing a similar effort by the New York City police in 2021 that was reversed due to public outcry.

The newest robots are already part of police arsenals throughout California, including in Saint Joseph, huntington park and Santa Maria. That includes tactical bots deployed by SWAT teams and others that function more like roaming security cameras, patrol parks and other public spaces.

One such robot in Huntington Park, literally named RoboCop, was marketed by police as “an extra set of eyes ready to report disturbing activity (and) deter crime.” But as NBC News reported in 2019, the machine failed to acknowledge an actual request for help when a fight broke out at a local park. The robot has its own social media accounts, but they have not been active since mid-2019.

And now, This is what is happening in California.

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Times contributor Mark Gozonsky is looking to play tennis on every court in Los Angeles. This guide to the best local golf courses served to make new friends. Los Angeles Times

Have you noticed that a growing number of cars in Los Angeles are opting for what you might consider flat, neutral earth tones? My colleague Daniel Miller also noticed this and explored the trend. Some say the paint jobs represent “harmony with nature,” reports Daniel, while critics “see in them the expression of drivers’ contradictory desires: to excel while conforming.” Los Angeles Times

Check out “The Times” podcast for essential news and more

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re looking for a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse group of reporters from the award-winning LA Times newsroom, delivers the hottest stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


The state of this year’s State of the State address is “not happening”. Governor Gavin Newsom has decided to skip the traditional address to the state legislature., opting instead to send a letter to lawmakers to comply with a constitutional requirement. Newsom has dyslexia and has had trouble reading teleprompters in scripted speeches. The governor is also scheduled to make a four-day tour of the state to outline his priorities. Associated Press

Southern California natural gas utilities want to increase rates to the tune of nearly $5 billion in additional revenue through 2027. That has many of the taxpayers at Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric heating up, figuratively speaking, after costs soared this winter. Los Angeles Times


A man has filed more than 2,000 disability claims in California over approximately 10 years. As questions arise about the plaintiff’s motivations, one case in particular could set a precedent for similar litigation in the state.leading the nation in federal lawsuits over access for people with disabilities. CalMatters

A jury awarded one of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s prosecutors $1.5 million in a retaliation case after she claimed she was reassigned for rejecting her boss’s policies. The legal loss bodes grimly for Gascón, given that she faces more than a dozen similar civil lawsuits. Los Angeles Times


A Black Angelina Was Convinced To Have Surgery She Didn’t Need, according to a lawsuit that was recently made public when it went to trial. A doctor at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center is suing Los Angeles County for retaliation after speaking out about experimental surgeries some of his colleagues performed while being paid by the companies that made the devices they implanted in patients. Los Angeles Times

another round of storms is on tap, with forecasters tracking an atmospheric river system expected to move across northern and central California beginning Thursday. The warmer system brings flooding risks as rain accelerates snow melt at low elevations. Southern California is also likely to get rain on Friday, with potential for flooding. Los Angeles Times


A remote beach town in Baja California California, Mexico, it has ideal winds for kitesurfing, which has attracted a growing number of Californians and othersyes with flexible remote jobs. But some locals are bracing for the effects of gentrification. Los Angeles Times

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from today california landmark is from Chris Ungar of Los Osos: the landscape Buchon Point Trail in Montaña De Oro State Park.

The Point Buchon Trail in Montana De Oro State Park.

(Chris Ungar)

Chris writes:

(The) trail begins at the southern end of Montana De Oro State Park and follows the coast south over PG&E land toward the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The hike passes Point Buchon, Disney Point (where “Pete’s Dragon” was filmed), and Windy Point, which has an almost sci-fi view of the nuclear facility. Right now, the hills are ablaze with poppies, otters frolic on the shoreline, migrating whales spout water, and the blue Pacific crashes against the shore.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special place in California — natural or man-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Be sure to only include photos taken directly by you. Your presentation may appear in a future issue of the newsletter.

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